Detroit Tigers minor-league tools series: Best Hitter

Five of the Detroit Tigers' six draft picks in the 2020 MLB draft participated in instructional league play in Lakeland, Florida.
Five of the Detroit Tigers' six draft picks in the 2020 MLB draft participated in instructional league play in Lakeland, Florida. /
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Detroit Tigers Best Hit Tools: Numbers 3 and 2

Detroit Tigers
Erie SeaWolves batter Ryan Kreidler hits the ball. /

3 – Ryan Kreidler – SS/3B

If not for the two generational prospects above him on this list, Ryan Kreidler probably would have been the story of the Tigers minor leagues in 2021. He came into the season as something of an afterthought, but turned himself into a top-10 prospect in the system after batting .270 with 22 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A.

Kreidler had some strikeout issues to begin the year, and he still has some issues identifying breaking balls and swinging at high heat, but his plate discipline improved dramatically over the course of the season:

There are times when his short, direct swing almost looks like an emergency hack (it’s vaguely reminiscent of that of former Detroit Tigers utility man Don Kelly) but Kreidler packs a surprising amount of punch, and can drive the ball in any direction. He talked about his approach and swing in this recent article at FanGraphs.

2 – Spencer Torkelson – 1B/3B

The Detroit Tigers made Spencer Torkelson the top overall pick in the 2020 draft, and he lived up to that lofty honor in his first year of pro ball. He hit his way out of High-A West Michigan in fewer than six weeks, blasted through Double-A in two months, and more than held his own in Triple-A over the final 40 games of his season. Injury held him to just seven games in the Arizona Fall League, but he posted an absurd .607 on-base percentage in that time.

Spencer Torkelson probably isn’t a future batting champ, and we outlined some small concerns about him a few months ago, but he has all the tools to be an average hitter and well-above-average offensive player at the MLB level. Torkelson has a terrific idea of the strike zone and rarely expands, he works plenty of walks, and his plus-plus power plays in games. If he doesn’t improve at all, he should still bat between .230-.250 annually, but he seemed determined to go the opposite way late in the season, and if he maintains that approach he could easily hit .260-.280 in the big leagues.