Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Tigers send struggling rookie first baseman Spencer Torkelson back to Triple-A

Tigers send struggling rookie first baseman Spencer Torkelson back to Triple-A

One of the top prospects in the game coming into 2022, Torkelson has struggled at the highest level

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The Detroit Tigers announced to reporters Sunday that rookie first baseman Spencer Torkelson has been optioned to Triple-A Toledo. 

The demotion continues a trend of disappointment for Torkelson in 2022. He cracked the Opening Day roster for Detroit, but months of struggle followed. In 83 games for the Tigers this season, Torkelson has batted .197/.282/.295 (68 OPS+) with just five home runs. He’s also struck out in 25.5 percent of his plate appearances, which is worse than the league-average figure of 22.3 percent. Perhaps more concerning is that Torkelson simply isn’t driving the ball with any authority. Right now, he ranks in the 39th percentile in hard-hit rate and the 19th percentile in expected slugging percentage. 

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The 22-year-old came into the year as one of the top prospects in baseball. Prior to the season, our own R.J. Anderson ranked Torkelson as the No. 8 overall prospect in baseball — a bit lower than most outlets had him. Anderson wrote at the time: 

“Torkelson, the No. 1 pick in 2020, soared all the way to Triple-A in his first professional season. Overall, he performed as you would expect someone with cleanup-hitter aspirations to: batting .267/.383/.552 with 30 home runs and a 14.5 percent walk rate. He’s often been compared to Andrew Vaughn of the White Sox because of their similar profiles: each has big raw strength and a feel for hitting, as well as the intelligence to make adjustments as needed. (Vaughn, for his part, had a disappointing rookie campaign in 2021.) The Tigers announced Torkelson as a third baseman on draft day, and they’ve continued to crosstrain him at both corner-infield positions. Scouts still expect him to end up at first base, however. With the Tigers gearing up to compete in 2022, odds are Torkelson will debut early in the season.”

It’s of course far too soon to give up on Torkelson or start thinking of him as a bust candidate. However, the Tigers have determined that further development is in order, and that didn’t appear to be the case mere months ago. 

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