Why there are even more Tork Bombs coming

August 24th, 2023

Here come the Tork Bombs. is giving us the first extended taste of his plus-plus power.

It's gone a little under the radar since the Tigers aren't contenders, but make no mistake: This is turning into a breakout power season for a young slugger whose power tool is what made him the No. 1 overall Draft pick in 2020.

Torkelson, who's just approaching his 24th birthday, is up to 23 home runs this season. He has eight homers in August, 11 since the All-Star break and 19 since the start of June. He's now on pace for his first 30-homer season. Potentially the first of many.

And if you look at Torkelson's Statcast data, you can see exactly why this is a breakout.

Torkelson's 23 homers are tied for 12th in the American League. But by Statcast's expected home runs -- which looks at the trajectory and distance of every ball a player hits to see if it would be gone at each MLB stadium -- Torkelson is top five in the league.

AL leaders in expected HR, 2023

  1. Shohei Ohtani: 39.9
  2. Luis Robert Jr.: 32.4
  3. Rafael Devers: 31.3
  4. Adolis García: 30.8
  5. Spencer Torkelson: 27.0

Not only that, over half of Torkelson's home runs -- 13 of 23 -- are "no-doubter" home runs. That means they'd be gone at all 30 ballparks. Of his fellow hitters with 20 or more homers this season, Torkelson's 57% rate of no-doubters is fifth highest, behind only Jack Suwinski, Joey Gallo, Kyle Tucker and Devers.

That's the first indication that Torkelson can slug with the big boys. The other big one is Torkelson's barrels.

Barrels are Statcast's No. 1 indicator that a hitter has real, sustainable power. They're balls hit with the ideal combination of exit velocity and launch angle -- the type of contact most likely to be a home run, or at least an extra-base hit.

Torkelson is one of only nine hitters in MLB with 50 barrels this season.

As a rookie in 2022, Torkelson had just 22 barrels. He's already more than doubled that, so it's no wonder he's about to triple his home run total from his debut season (eight).

From 2022 to '23, Torkelson has morphed into the type of power hitter he was always supposed to be.

His average exit velocity has increased nearly two full mph, from 90.5 mph to 92.4 mph. His hard-hit rate has jumped over 10 percentage points, from 41.8% to 52.3%, meaning over half his contact is now hit 95 mph or harder. His barrel rate has increased over 6 percentage points, from 8.4% to 14.5%.

Torkelson now ranks among the top 10% of MLB hitters in all three categories. He's in the 92nd percentile of MLB in exit velocity, the 94th percentile in hard-hit rate and the 91st percentile in barrel rate.

His improvements in making hard contact and barrelling the baseball particularly stand out. Torkelson's gains are among the biggest of any hitter from last season to this season.

Largest increase in hard-hit rate, 2022 to '23

  1. J.D. Martinez: +13 points (41.7% to 54.7%)
  2. Corey Seager: +11.2 points (45.5% to 57.0%)
  3. Spencer Torkelson: +10.5 points (41.8% to 52.3%)
  4. Daniel Vogelbach: +10.1 points (39.9% to 50%)
  5. Juan Soto: +10.0 points (47.4% to 57.4%)

Largest increase in barrel rate, 2022 to '23

  1. Corey Seager: +8.6 points (10.5% to 19.1%)
  2. Patrick Wisdom: +7.0 points (14.2% to 21.2%)
  3. Sean Murphy: +6.5 points (10.5% to 17.0%)
  4. Spencer Torkelson: +6.1 points (8.4% to 14.5%)
  5. Luis Robert Jr.: +6.0 points (8.9% to 14.9%)

Torkelson has tapped into his pull power, a key step for many a home run hitter. Twenty of his 23 homers are to left field.

Likewise, 29 of Torkelson's 50 barrels are to left. (Not a bad place to drive the ball when you play at Comerica Park, with its cavernous center field.)

Most pulled barrels, 2023

  1. Mookie Betts: 34
  2. Spencer Torkelson: 29
  3. Shohei Ohtani: 27
  4. Nolan Arenado / Cal Raleigh: 26

Torkelson is pulling the ball significantly more often than he did as a rookie -- 46% of the time, compared to 39% a year ago. He's hitting the ball in the air significantly more often -- he's cut his ground-ball rate from 41% to 32% and increased his fly-ball rate from 26% to 32%.

Combine those two things, and you get a hitter who's pulling fly balls at the highest rate in baseball. (Torkelson ranks ahead of Marcus Semien, Betts, Hunter Renfroe and Arenado.) And that's the easiest way to get home runs.

The all-fields power is in there somewhere, too. It's been there for Torkelson since college, and it's one of the reasons he was a top Draft pick and a top prospect in the Minors. But it's hard to argue when a hitter starts powering the ball over the left-field wall like Arenado. And Torkelson's quality of contact tells you that this home run surge could be only the start.