Detroit Tigers: What to expect from Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson

Detroit Tigers prospects Riley Greene Spencer Torkelson.
Detroit Tigers prospects Riley Greene Spencer Torkelson. /
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Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson are primed to make their MLB debuts in 2022, but what should Detroit Tigers fans expect to see?

For most of “Contender November” we focused on potential free agent signings and trades to make the Detroit Tigers better. The Tigers did their part by trading for Tucker Barnhart and signing Eduardo Rodriguez and Javier Báez to big contracts, but the MLB lockout has cast a pall over what should have been an exciting and eventful offseason for Tigers fans.

There’s still plenty to discuss, though. For all our speculation about huge free-agent deals and blockbuster trades, the ultimate success of this Detroit Tigers rebuild was always going to hinge on the development of the team’s top prospects.

The arms came first, with Matt Manning, Casey Mize, and Tarik Skubal all making contributions for the 2021 squad. Now Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson are knocking on the door. But prospects don’t always live up to the hype in their first season.

MLB players are ridiculously talented, and they have a world of information at their fingertips. They seek out weaknesses, and then exploit them mercilessly.

We can watch prospects in the minors, marvel at their tools, and write detailed scouting reports, but it’s impossible to know how they’ll adjust and perform in the big leagues.

But let’s try to guess anyway!

Detroit Tigers: Greene and Torkelson Steamer Projections

Fantasy sports and gambling are multi-billion dollar industries, and plenty of people are willing to pay money for player projections. Fortunately, there are also free projection systems of high quality, like Steamer:

"Steamer is a system of projections developed by Jared Cross — a high school science teacher in Brooklyn — and two of his former students, Dash Davidson and Peter Rosenbloom…Like other projection systems, Steamer uses past performance and aging trends to develop a future projection for players. It also uses pitch-tracking data to help forecast pitchers."

The 2022 Steamer projections are already available at FanGraphs, and they include both Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson. Let’s take a look:

All of those projections are pretty positive! But this is where we have to point out projection systems often work much better in the aggregate than on an individual player basis.

For example, Steamer projects Spencer Torkelson to play nearly 80 more MLB games in 2022 than Riley Greene, probably because Torkelson is 13 months older. But most people who actually watched Greene and Torkelson play all year think Greene is closer to being big-league ready.

The two bottom rows in the table above give us a bit of a workaround. They are stats based on Steamer600, which simply takes the rate projections for each player and extrapolates them to a season of 600 plate appearances.

Once again, both projections are pretty spectacular. In fact, Steamer600 projects Greene and Torkelson to be the two best position players on the Detroit Tigers. Torkelson’s 33 home runs would be the second most ever for a Tigers rookie, and by WAR, both players would be among the top 20 rookies in Detroit Tigers history.

Getting roughly six wins from a pair of rookies would obviously do wonders for the 2022 Detroit Tigers. But let’s turn off the computer for a bit and use some recent real-world examples to see if Steamer is on the right track.