Detroit Tigers: Is Spencer Torkelson a late bloomer to big leagues?

Detroit Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson (20) hits a ball against the Chicago White Sox.
Detroit Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson (20) hits a ball against the Chicago White Sox. / David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports
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Diving deeper into this, let's talk about Torkelson and why things might just point to him being a late bloomer. Torkelson is hitting the ball hard, as evidenced by a quick look at the "red dots" on his Baseball Savant page.

But beyond the dots and into the metrics, it's easier to see that when Torkelson is on the barrel, the ball's jumping. But in his rookie campaign, he was unlucky. He hit the ball hard and hit it well but only mustered up a .255 BABIP. Now, in 2023, he's continuing to hit the ball hard, even at a higher clip and with a better Barrel rate, but he still only has a BABIP of .277 on the season.

However, Stavenhagen noted that he's being too passive and talks about that negatively contributing to his overall approach. Coming up, one of the things mentioned about Torkelson was his ability to have an eye for the zone and find ways on base.

In 2023, this is continuing, and it might indicate that the passive approach that may need a tweak. In his rookie campaign, Torkelson slashed .203/285/.319 with 16 doubles, a triple, eight home runs, and 37 walks to 99 punchouts over 404 plate appearances. He's come out in 2023 and slashed .227/.309/.357 with 13 doubles, five home runs, and 24 walks to 55 punchouts over 246 plate appearances.

Going back to the Baseball Savant data, Torkelson has controlled the strike zone at a better rate, more reminiscent of his college days. He's got a 22.4% K% and a 9.8% BB% while also cutting down his whiff rate a few percentage points year-over-year.

So while he may be more passive, it's been a good thing in terms of finding ways on-base. But he's still finding barrels and trying to do a better job seeing those balls down for hits. Which has been the unlucky part so far. He has improved his ISO metric, meaning that his ability to hit for power has improved regardless of the results, paired with his high Hard-Hit % makes it an even more desirable profile.

Lumping it all together... Torkelson's got the stuff to have success. The makings are there, and the metrics are green lights for success. But why is the slash line struggling? Why is he not in the same category as Rutschman?