Spencer Torkelson started making a name for himself in his freshman year at Arizona State, where he hit 25 home runs, and broke Barry Bonds’ record for long-balls as a freshman.
When COVID-19 cut his 2020 season short, Tork had already compiled 54 home runs (only two shy of breaking the program’s record) in 129 games. Before being drafted, his bat was already deemed MLB ready by many scouts. When the Detroit Tigers were, officially, on the clock in the 2020 MLB Draft, there was no question Spencer Torkelson’s name was going to be called first.
With him breaking camp with the team and starting at first base for the 2022 Detroit Tigers, is Spencer Torkelson already the new Face of the Franchise?
The Spotlight is On
On April 2nd, the Torkelson era began in Detroit. The Tigers announced Spencer Torkelson had made the Opening Day roster and that he would be in the lineup when they opened the season at home against the division-rival Chicago White Sox.
He was the first Detroit Tigers rookie to make his Major League debut on Opening Day since 2010, when Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore did so.
Torkelson has been able to handle the spotlight as a professional since day one. Manager A.J. Hinch alluded to that when he announced Torkelson was ready for The Show”
"“I loved how he handled the entire spring, both emotionally and on the field,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “Last spring was difficult for him. He bounced back and had a really successful season. Coming into this camp, I saw a ton of confidence."
A.J. Hinch was referencing Torkelson’s struggles last spring, where he went 1 for 27 in 19 games. His final line was .037/.161/.198 with 16 strikeouts. His 2022 spring training was a better showcase for his true abilities and work ethic, as he hit .258/.276/.562 in 31 ABs and struck out only six times.
Passing of the Torch
When it comes to the first base position for the Tigers, Miguel Cabrera was adamant about his ability to still play the position. However, the start of the 2022 season had him going back on that.
Miggy began Spring Training by saying that he would gladly give up playing first base if it meant Spencer Torkelson would start the season with the big-league club. At the end of the day, the final decision was not Cabrera’s to make, it was Hinch’s. When Torkelson was brought into his office to hear the decision, A.J. Hinch wanted Miguel Cabrera to be a part of that.
After that meeting in the manager’s office, the torch was officially passed, and Spencer Torkelson became the face of the Detroit Tigers.
The Spencer Torkelson Era
Despite going hitless in his first ten at-bats of the 2022 season, and striking out in seven of those, Spencer Torkelson’s maturity showed out. He did not falter, or let the pressure get to him. After getting the monkey off of his back, he truly settled in and began to showcase his hitting ability.
The sample size is modest, but in 25 at-bats this season, Torkelson is hitting .240/.387/.520 with his first two big-league home runs. He is barreling up the ball, showing in his 46.7% Hard Hit rate, and even showing his patience with his 16.1% walk rate.
The scouting report on Torkelson is proving to be accurate. Despite being labeled as a power threat (which is accurate), he is a patient hitter with a keen awareness of his strike zone. He battles at the plate with his ability to foul off tough pitches in order to extend his at-bats. Combine that with his raw power, and the talent to hit all types of pitches out of the park, and the 11 sacrifice flies he compiled last season, and you get a picture of a true team player.
Since the beginning, Torkelson has shown all the intangibles a ballclub looks for in the face of their team. These are not the Detroit Tigers of old. Years of investing in player development, and building up their farm system, are now being brought to the spotlight. In 20202 the Tigers had Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal make their debuts for the team, and last year Matt Manning joined them. However, none of them had the amount of anticipation that Torkelson had through his quick accession of the minor leagues.
Detroit Tigers fan have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Miguel Cabrera held the title for this ballclub since he arrived in 2007. Now, as owner Chris Ilitch has made the investments in the improvement of the ballclub, the Tigers were in need of someone to step up and lead the change for the new-era Tigers.
Sorry Miguel, it’s now Spencer Torkelson’s team.