Spencer Torkelson and Colt Keith are finally heating up after dismal start to 2024

Spencer Torkelson and Colt Keith are slowly getting their seasons back on track
Detroit Tigers v Arizona Diamondbacks
Detroit Tigers v Arizona Diamondbacks / Chris Coduto/GettyImages

2024 has been a difficult season to be a Tigers fan. The team won six of their first seven games but struggled to build off that mark, in large part thanks to an offense that hasn't been able to find its footing.

This was supposed to be a breakout year for first baseman Spencer Torkelson, who looked like he was finally coming into his own in 2023. The team also inked prospect Colt Keith to a six-year deal worth $28.5 million in the offseason, before Keith had even made his big league debut.

Torkelson and Keith struggled heavily through the month of April and were a big part of why the offense wasn't able to keep up with the pace of the pitching staff. However, things look to be turning around as we get further into the month of May.

Spencer Torkelson is finally finding his power stroke

Torkelson has hit three homers since May 12 and is tied for third among all qualified hitters with 14 doubles. He's improved by posting a .722 OPS so far in May, compared to the dismal .588 mark he put up in April. He's also striking out a bit less than he did last year and despite the poor results on contact, he's still hitting the ball hard.

One concerning piece is that he's had trouble staying on top of fastballs. He's hit just .184 with a .327 slugging percentage against four-seamers this year. He slugged .514 against them in 2023 so we know he's capable of taking advantage of fastballs, he just needs to find a way to get the barrel onto the ball more often.

Colt Keith's luck is starting to turn for the better

On the other hand, Colt Keith looks like he's starting to find a rhythm against major league pitching. He's hitting .350/.386/.425 in 44 plate appearances this month, a dramatic improvement over his performance in April.

In addition to the results on contact, he's also shown a penchant for plate discipline. Keith's 16.1% walk rate is in the 82nd percentile league-wide, and he's walking nearly 8% of the time. The ability to get on base will be a carrying tool for him as he works to find his power stroke.

Thankfully for Tigers fans, Keith's expected stats suggest we should see some improvement this summer. Keith's .404 expected slugging average is 160 points better than his current mark of .244, and his 7.3% barrel rate is a tick better than league average.

Unlike Torkelson, Keith has been crushing fastballs to the tune of a .370 batting average, with a .593 xSLG. It's the off-speed and breaking stuff that's been the killer. He's hitting .158 against breaking balls, which isn't good enough right now. However, there's plenty of time for him to improve.

The Tigers need these guys to be hitting well if they want to be competitive in the AL Central race. Thankfully, May has been a much more favorable month than April was, and the data suggest that those trends are likely to continue.