Detroit Tigers fans need a bit more patience with Spencer Torkelson...for now
Spencer Torkelson was considered a can't-miss prospect when he was selected No. 1 overall by the Detroit Tigers in the 2020 MLB Draft. Many were calling him a generational hitting talent. Here we are, about a year and a half into his big league career, and he's been anything but generational.
In 668 plate appearances across 172 games, Torkelson is slashing .212/.295/.333 with 13 home runs, an 81 wRC+ and an fWAR of -1.3. For someone that was billed as a can't-miss prospect, these are some incredibly underwhelming stats.
As a result, some fans have already begun to throw the dreaded and ever-popular 'bust' label around. It's easy to do that for a No. 1 overall pick, especially considering the lack of production through over a year's worth of MLB at-bats. But I believe it's still a bit premature to start throwing terms like that around. Let me explain.
Tork is still just 23 years old. He's still so young. He's got plenty of time to turn things around, and it's not like the lack of production is for lack of talent or ability. We've seen the ball fly off his bat many times. When gets ahold of one, it goes a long way.
And it's not like he hasn't improved upon last year's stats either. Most of his peripheral stats are up. His hard-hit rate, walk rate, barrel rate, line drive rate, and expected slugging percentage are all higher than last year. He's been making harder contact all year long. It just hasn't equated to results yet, and that's where people have issues.
At some point, the results have to match the advanced data. There's not denying that. Tork has also been pretty unlucky so far in his career, sporting a .264 BABIP. But this is a results-oriented business, and that's all most people care about.
It's actually pretty strange that the results haven't been there given the solid peripheral data. He has quite a few singles this year. The ISO is only at .130. I think if he was hitting for more power, people wouldn't be as upset.
I still think people need to give this guy more of a chance. Again, he's still 23. And it's not like we haven't seen this before from other top prospects.
Mike Trout didn't exactly light it up in his first stint in the big leagues. Jarred Kelenic struggled mightily—far worse than Torkelson—his first two years in the league before finally figuring things out this season. Bobby Witt Jr.. who also debuted last year, hasn't exactly lit it up for the Royals. This kind of thing is far from unprecedented.
Tigers fans needs to give Spencer Torkelson at least through the end of this season before they start calling him a bust. Not every big prospect is a finished product right out of the gate. If he's still struggling by the end of the year, then we can start to worry.
Fan frustration is totally understandable, especially considering the current state of the team. But considering his advanced data, I think Spencer Torkelson still deserves the benefit of the doubt.