Detroit Tigers uber-prospects Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson are all-but-certain to start the season in Toledo with the delay of the MLB season
One of the great debates among the fanbase was whether the Detroit Tigers would opt to start their young position player prospects on the MLB roster or if the organization would continue to slow play their development by assigning them to Triple-A Toledo, a destination in which both already have experience.
Some of this debate revolved around service time manipulation, which figures to be addressed in some way with the next collective bargaining agreement (if we ever get one), so that rationale is effectively negated. Age is Greene’s most logical reason to stay down–he’ll spend nearly the entire 2022 season as a 21-year-old. With Torkelson, it’s more logistics. Some would say he’s less offensively refined, but the Tigers also have Cabrera and Schoop to occupy first base and it may be more valuable to get Torkelson regular at-bats and defensive reps in Toledo than an occasional start in Detroit.
It is disappointing considering the competitive trend and offensive needs of the club. It would have been exciting to see both players in Seattle for a regularly scheduled Opening Day for the Tigers–nevertheless, it is still possible they are with Detroit when the season ultimately starts.
It is unclear how these non-40-man players are going to be handled. The players that are on active rosters are going to need spring training and most agree that four weeks is about the least amount of time necessary to get big leaguers in game shape. It remains to be seen if organizations are going to ask prospects in consideration for an opening day roster spot to leave their minor league stables for a more intimate glance against better competition, or if they will remain with their minor league affiliate until the organization decides to poach them closer to the start of the season.
Additionally, although service time manipulation is likely to be addressed, it has not been announced how a shortened season will affect service clocks. Depending on how the service time issue is addressed in the next CBA and how long the lockout lasts, the Tigers may get an extra year of control of Torkelson and Greene by default.
Possibly, the organization may opt to hold these players back from the start of the minor league season, but requiring them to stop and then start again might be more problematic to their development versus allowing them to continue to get real-game repetitions. The risk of injury will always be there, but I’d be more hesitant if these were pitchers that they were asking to brave the April northern Ohio elements.
As it stands currently, the Toledo Mud Hens open the season at home on April 5th for a six-game series that runs through April 10th. The earliest the Detroit Tigers season can begin as of now is April 8th, where they would open at home against the Chicago White Sox and would remain at home through April 13th.