DETROIT -- With West Michigan now being the Tigers' Class A Advanced affiliate, it could be the first stop for Spencer Torkelson. Detroit's top prospect could open the season with the Whitecaps as he begins his climb up the farm system.
Tigers general manager Al Avila raised the scenario Thursday night on the "Tiger Talk" radio show on WXYT-FM with radio broadcasters Dan Dickerson and Pat Caputo. The assignment isn’t set, Avila warned, but it’s a scenario the club has discussed, and it’s the one he would predict if he had to decide today.
Fellow highly touted Tigers prospect Riley Greene, by contrast, could open the season at Double-A Erie, Avila said.
The destinations for both players have generated a lot of intrigue since last summer, when both were part of the Tigers’ Summer Camp at Comerica Park. Torkelson, who is ranked No. 4 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list, went almost directly to camp from the 2020 MLB Draft, where Detroit selected the slugging corner infielder with the top overall pick out of Arizona State. Greene, an outfielder who is the No. 25 overall prospect in baseball, created buzz with a strong camp, including a leaping catch at the fence to take away a C.J. Cron home run.
Torkelson and Greene spent the rest of the 2020 season at the alternate training site in Toledo, Ohio. Torkelson has yet to play a professional game, while Greene has 57 games of Minor League experience from 2019, after Detroit selected him with its top Draft pick earlier that summer.
The Tigers haven’t released a full list of non-roster invites for Spring Training yet, so it’s unclear whether the pair of prospects will be part of big league camp.
“We'll see how it goes,” Avila said on the "Tiger Talk" show. “Right now, I can't tell you if both of them will make the club, or if one of them. But they'll have a chance.”
Part of that might depend on rest of the rotation. The Tigers signed former Marlins Opening Day starter José Ureña last month, and Avila said Thursday that they “hopefully” might be able to add another starter. They ranked 52 free-agent starters going into the offseason, he said, and 40 of them are still on the market.
Another factor that Avila raised was the possibility of a six-man rotation. It’s an option Detroit is weighing, either to begin the season or in stretches, to help manage the increased workloads for its starters after last year's 60-game season.
The Tigers already return Matthew Boyd, Spencer Turnbull and Michael Fulmer to their rotation, while Daniel Norris and Tyler Alexander will compete for spots.
Right-hander Matt Manning, the No. 20 overall prospect in baseball, is expected to open the season in the Minors, Avila said. The former first-round Draft pick and Tigers Minor League Pitcher of the Year was in big league Spring Training and Summer Camp last year, but he was shut down early at the alternate training site with a right forearm strain. He spent all of 2019 at Double-A Erie.