DETROIT -- The Tigers selected Spencer Torkelson with the top overall pick in this summer’s MLB Draft believing he has an advanced bat that could progress quickly through the Minor Leagues. They did not draft him believing he could contribute this season, especially without the Minor Leagues available.
Thus, although the Tigers have a need for offensive help with C.J. Cron out for the season, Torkelson won't be called up this year, general manager Al Avila confirmed.
Among the evaluations on Torkelson going into the Draft, some believed he was the type of hitter that could be ready for the big leagues almost immediately. The problem was the combination of a lost college season and a lost Minor League season.
Torkelson, who immediately became the Tigers’ top-ranked prospect and the No. 7 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list, spent Summer Camp with the Major Leaguers to begin his move from first to third base. He has continued that work at the alternate training site in Toledo, Ohio, while also getting at-bats. However, due to the constraints of the 60-man player pool, the game action there has been limited.
“We’re very pleased, obviously, with his progress there, as well as the other guys we have there; Riley Greene and [Dillon] Dingler and all these guys. They’re all doing well -- in the circumstances that we have,” Avila explained this week. “Right now, the games that we’re playing, sometimes they’re five innings, sometimes they’re two innings. With having [Casey] Mize and [Tarik] Skubal up here, the innings are not as much now. And particularly having [Matt] Manning and [Alex] Faedo not throwing in those games at this point either, there’s not as many innings to play, so there’s more live BP and things like that. But they’re going through a lot of drills. They’re doing a lot of sim games. So they’re doing good within the tools that we have to develop with.”
Under a more traditional player-development setting, Avila said, a fast track for Torkelson might have been feasible.
“Quite frankly, if we had the opportunity to play Minor League games and you’re seeing him in real action against other clubs and things of that nature, who knows,” Avila said. “But to bring a guy that we just drafted from the alternate training camp, where there’s simulated games, live-BP type games -- and even the intrasquad games, it is what it is -- it’s a hard place to evaluate, let me just tell you. And I’m not saying we’re trying to evaluate Torkelson or Greene or any of those guys. What we’re trying to do is just give them a lot of work, give them a lot of drills and go through a development process so they can just get better as baseball players. But when you’re looking at overall evaluation of the future, it’s totally different than going into a regular Minor League season and be able to go see games over five months. It’s a totally different atmosphere.”
The same difficulties impact Greene, the Tigers’ fourth-ranked prospect and No. 32 on the MLB Pipeline Top 100. Though the 19-year-old made a strong impression in Summer Camp, he has just half a season of Minor League baseball under his belt and has yet to play above Class A West Michigan.
• The Tigers and Twins discussed starting their doubleheader Friday with the hope of getting up to five innings in, Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. Ultimately, given the forecast for more showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon, they decided not to start a game they didn’t believe they’d be able to finish. “When you start a game, you want to play the whole game, seven innings or whatever,” Gardenhire said. “You don’t want to say, ‘Well, if we can get in five, we’re good.’ That’s not how you should play baseball, and that was kind of what we were trying to talk about.”
• A day after outfielder Travis Demeritte was called up to be the Tigers’ 29th player for a doubleheader that was never played, the Tigers called up right-hander Beau Burrows to fill the same spot Saturday. Gardenhire said the club decided to add pitching depth just in case, though the pitching staff is fully rested.
• Pitching coach Rick Anderson rejoined the team Saturday. He left earlier in the week to travel to Seattle for a family health matter.