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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Detroit Tigers: Greene and Torkelson Milb Stat Projections

Detroit Tigers
Erie SeaWolves batter Riley Greene hit this ball for a second-inning triple. /

Detroit Tigers fans are absolutely right to be excited about Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson. They were two of just seven minor-league hitters under the age of 22 to post a wRC+ of 140 or better in the upper minors (Double-A and Triple-A) last year.

Minor-league stats can only tell us so much, but performing well in the upper minors at a relatively young age is generally a strong sign of future MLB success.

So, let’s look at players who were 21 or younger and put up similar upper-minors stats to Greene and Torkelson, then see how they performed in their first real MLB season.

This time we’ll start with Torkelson:

Again, these are stats from the upper minors only, which is why Torkelson only has 25 home runs — we aren’t counting the 5 he hit in High-A West Michigan.

This is a pretty interesting list, though. Rizzo and Freeman became legitimate stars, and Alvarez appears headed along the same path. Moustakas has had a quality MLB career, while Singelton and Davidson were busts, and Tellez is a replacement-level player.

Now let’s see how these seven players fared in their first real year of MLB action:

A bit of a mixed bag here. Alvarez was spectacular as a rookie, while Rizzo and Freeman were above-average hitters whose WAR was held down by rough defense. Davidson regressed significantly after his terrific 2012 season, but there were always some concerns about his bat speed and swing.

Now let’s take a look at some comparable performers to Riley Greene last year:

Dylan Carlson is starting to look like a pretty strong comp for Riley Greene. They both ranked as top-10 prospects, and they produced nearly identical minor-league stat lines at the same levels and same age.

Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson, and Kyle Tucker also appeared on the list of top prospects and had similar statistical seasons to Greene, but we left them off here because each walked more and/or struck out significantly less than Greene.

Now, let’s finish with a look at how these players did in their MLB debuts:

We get another pretty varied sample here. Justin and Nick Williams both stagnated, while Domingo Santana had one very good season before strikeouts and poor defense sent him overseas.

Wil Myers won the Rookie of the Year award, but he’s been a mostly average player since, while Tyler O’Neill had a monster breakout season this year, albeit with some concerning strikeout and walk numbers. And then we return to Dylan Carlson, who had a very encouraging season, though it came after a 35-game cup of coffee in 2020.