Detroit Tigers: Greene and Torkelson Prospect Ranking Projections
Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson are universally regarded as two of the best prospects in all of baseball. By the end of the 2021 season they both ranked in the top ten to Baseball America, FanGraphs, and MLB Pipeline.
Prospect ranking is an inherently subjective exercise, prone to a variety of biases and errors in judgment. Still, for those who have spent a decade or more in the prospect world, it feels like the methodology behind prospect rankings has improved dramatically in recent years.
With that in mind, we thought it might be useful to compare Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson to similarly ranked prospects over the past decade, and then look at how those other prospects performed in their first real season at the MLB level.
The first thing we need to do is put each player in the proper archetypal bucket. Spencer Torkelson fits pretty neatly as a Slugging Corner Infielder. To be a highly ranked prospect at these positions players generally have to demonstrate the ability to hit a TON.
The outfield is a little bit different. Riley Greene played a lot of center field last year, but he isn’t a defense-oriented prospect along the lines of Cristian Pache, Victor Robles, or Leody Taveras, nor is he a five-tool athletic freak like Ronald Acuña Jr., Byron Buxton, or Luis Robert. Greene probably fits best into the Hitterish Corner Outfielder bucket, but that still leaves him with plenty of contemporaries.
So let’s look at the first-year MLB stats of some comparably ranked players to get a better idea of what each prospect might do in 2022. First, Riley Greene:
Each of the players above was at one point ranked a top-10 prospect in baseball, just like Riley Greene, and most had a cup of coffee (or two) before establishing themselves in the big leagues.
Now, to the Spencer Torkelson comparables:
It’s a bit harder to find highly ranked corner infield bats. We had to stretch a bit, though, as Devers, Riley, and Vaughn were all top-25 prospects, but never ranked in the top 5. Gallo and Sanó are extreme swing-and-miss players who aren’t ideal comps either, but we did the best we could.
Kris Bryant is a pretty significant outlier here, having produced one of the best rookie seasons in MLB history. It’s true Spencer Torkelson has often been compared to Bryant, but that doesn’t seem terribly fair, as Bryant’s minor-league performance was significantly better than Torkelson’s.
Speaking of minor-league performance…