Get to a West Michigan Whitecaps game as soon as you can – the young Detroit Tigers prospects will not be there long. One of those must-watch prospects is right-handed pitcher Spencer Turnbull. He was drafted by the Tigers in 2014 in the second round. He completed two years of NCAA baseball at the University of Alabama.
In 2014, Turnbull pitched for the Lakeland Flying Tigers and the Connecticut Tigers. He pitched in 11 games in Lakeland, winning 2, and earning a 4.45 ERA with a 1.59 WHIP. He pitched three innings in Connecticut.
In 2015, he moved up to the West Michigan Whitecaps, where he was a part of the Midwest League Champions. He pitched in 22 games where he won 11 and lost 3. His ERA was 3.01 and his WHIP was 1.354. He had 106 strikeouts in 116.2 innings pitched. Throughout his career in the minor leagues, he has only allowed two home runs; he did not allow any all season in West Michigan.
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He is currently a member of the 2016 Whitecaps roster in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he will play along with his fellow championship teammates Mike Gerber, Kade Scivicque, Artie Lewicki, and Christin Stewart. The tickets in Grand Rapids will be hot commodities as local fans will want to see their young favorites before they move up to the Erie Seawolves.
According to Fangraphs, Turnbull does deliver a quick fastball that can hit 97 mph. Most of his fastballs are in the low to mid-90s. He has an above-average slider and changeup that works. As a young pitcher, he has the speed, but he does have to work on his art and command. The Tigers will continue to work with Turnbull to help him develop into a pitcher like Alex Wilson, who throws in the middle innings. If he works hard, he could be a middle rotation pitcher, but he will have competition for a spot of that nature.
The Mississippi native had a successful pair of seasons with the University of Alabama. As a freshman in 2012, he was named the SEC Freshman of the Week at the end of April. He earned that honor for his start against South Carolina (the #4 team at the time) where he had a no-hitter going through seven innings before the game was suspended for lightning. During that game, he had five strikeouts and four walks. Through the rest of the 2012 season, he started in 10 games as a freshman – which is a notable amount of starts. He held the opposing batters to an average of .286. In 2013, he pitched a shutout against Auburn, ringing up four hits, four strikeouts, and three walks in nine innings. He finished his sophomore season with a 3.75 ERA.
Turnbull really showed what he was worth in September of 2015 with the Whitecaps. As the team was rallying for a playoff spot, he pitched in 6 2/3 innings against the Great Lakes Loons, holding them to one hit and two walks. The Whitecaps won 10-0 while Turnbull threw 12 strikeouts.
Hopefully, after his strong finish with the Whitecaps, Spencer Turnbull will continue to show what he is worth. If he can continue to clean up his command and continue to strikeout batters, it won’t be long before he makes his debut with in the Old English D.