2021 Detroit Tigers’ Top 5 Prospectsby Tayyib Abu March 1, 2021 0 comments
After a decade of contending, the Detroit Tigers got caged into a challenging rebuild. An era of challenging for pennants and playoffs came to an end, and the small-town Tigers needed to embrace the dreaded “T” word, tank. No Tiger fan wanted to accept it. Sadly, the modern economics of MLB force it on small-market teams. The Detroit Tigers went about the tank spectacularly. Since 2017, they’ve consistently posted sub .500 seasons. The Tigers also selected first overall in the draft twice in that timeframe. The goal was clear to restock the Tigers with young prospects.
It is working, and the Tigers farm system ranks fifth in the league. GM Al Avila utilized those high picks to land talented prospects. The Tigers are the only team to have five players land in the top 30 prospects list. The green shoots of recovery are emerging; Tigers fans are starting to get excited. With spring training games beginning this weekend, it is a good time to pinpoint the top-five prospects that wear the old English D on their cap.
Make sure to check out all of our other MLB Team Top Prospects.
1. Spencer Torkelson – 1B/3B
Torkelson is the jewel of Detroit’s farm system. The big infielder went first overall in last year’s draft—the Arizona product signed for $8.4 million as the Tigers drafted him as a third baseman. Time will tell whether Torkelson stays on the hot corner or if he shifts to first base. Torkelson’s played third sporadically since his high-school days. Nonetheless, the Tigers’ brass sees him as the third baseman of the future.
The Tigers drafted the California native as a junior from Arizona. While at Arizona, Torkelson torched some school records. He broke Barry Bonds‘ home run freshman record with 25 dingers. In two full seasons at Arizona, Torkelson hit 20 plus home runs while averaging well above .300. In two stints at Chatham in the fall, Torkelson hit for average at an absurd level. It is crystal-clear that Torkelson is a rare breed. He can hit for average while hitting home runs and maintaining excellent plate discipline. That bodes very well for the modern-day MLB. No wonder the Tigers made him the first corner infielder drafted first overall in two decades. Torkelson is the Tiger prospect that everyone needs to watch. He could be special.
With Torkelson’s talent and the Tigers’ need to get playmakers on the big league roster, the Arizona alum could see on-field action in 2021. If he is the rare talent that the front office thinks he is, they must let him step up and take a swing at some point. He may need some minor-league seasoning. Nonetheless, Torkelson is coming.
2. Riley Greene – OF
The Tigers selected Greene fifth overall in the 2019 draft, and the outfielder went off in his senior year at school as he posted a .422 batting average. That performance cemented his place as a bonafide stud in the draft. Detroit took a flier on a kid who wasn’t playing college ball, so the team obviously felt high on Greene. Since the draft, Greene played at the Single-A level for the rest of the year. The cancellation of Minor League Ball last year hindered his development. Instead of playing real-world ball, Greene spent it in the comfy confines of the Tigers West affiliate. In nine games, his stat line read like this: .351/.442/.595.
The lefty possesses a smooth swing that should help him stay consistent and hit the ball correctly when he arrives into the bigs. Greene is a sharp outfielder that could play anywhere. He tracks the ball well and can throw with reasonable accuracy. Greene can develop into an every-day starter for the Tigers. He doesn’t own the flash of Torkelson, notwithstanding that Greene is highly talented. In all likelihood, Greene needs another year of minor league experience. He is still very raw for the major league level. In all, Greene is one of the best prospects in baseball.
3. Matt Manning – RHP
It feels like Manning has been in the Tigers system forever. He is one of their best pitching prospects. The towering pitcher got drafted back in 2016. At the time, it was considered a slight reach. Manning’s athleticism stood out as a huge highlight, although there were concerns about his pitching. Manning allayed those concerns as he progressed through the system faster than expected. His minor league career ERA is a reliable 3.04, and his WHIP is a decent 1.1. That WHIP hit a new low in 2019 whilst pitching at AA affiliate Erie, and Manning hit a career-low WHIP of 0.9.
Manning’s specialty pitch is his fastball. His heater can hit the high 90s, while his curveball is a good strikeout pitch. Manning imparts a healthy amount of spin that helps his curveball get a lot of drop on it to take the bottom of the zone. Manning is continuing to refine his mechanics; the raw athleticism is there. Now he needs to finesse his tools to ensure he is big-league ready. After fellow stable-mates Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal made their debuts in 2020, Manning will debut in 2021. The big Tigers prospect is a player that fans should watch with keen eyes.
4. Dillon Dingler – Catcher
Dingler was Detroit’s other big pick in the 2020 draft. The Ohio State man was selected as a catcher, although he played in the outfield in his collegiate career. Dingler is a talented fielder with a strong throwing arm. The Tigers loved his athletic ability to make plays on defense. Despite Dingler’s status as a catcher, he could transition to the outfield if incumbent catcher Jake Rogers continues to improve. Dingler is quick across the ground, which should help him if he plays in the outfield. Dingler spent enough time in both positions to develop his understanding, and he can control his fate in Detroit.
Dingler’s college batting average was an adequate .276. That isn’t the headline story though, Dingler is Brad Pitt’s fever dream because he gets on base. His OBP in 2019 was a brilliant .392. That is an excellent tool to possess. Dingler isn’t a power hitter like Torkelson, but if that plate discipline translates from college to the pro’s, the Ohio native will be a significant threat for the Tigers. His plus speed can help him add a different element for Detroit on offense. The rookie needs time in the minors. However, this high-ceiling toolsy player will climb the ranks quickly.
5. Joey Wentz – LHP
Wentz is a bit of a unicorn. The lefty pitcher didn’t get drafted by the Tigers. Instead, the Braves drafted him in 2016. After a strong start, injuries hampered his Braves career. Atlanta sent him to Detroit as part of the package that saw Shane Greene leave the Tigers. Wentz got sent to Erie to join Manning and Mize as part of the rotation. He did ok there while the others grabbed the headlines. Wentz’s big build and strength should allow him to recover from Tommy John surgery. His fastball is a powerful pitch but doesn’t possess a ton of movement on it. Right now, the heater is his setup pitch, not his strikeout pitch. The strikeout pitch is his changeup. That is the pitch that can bring him to the dance in the majors.
The Kansas City man needs a reliable year in 2021 free of injury. The injury bug hurts his velocity, especially on the fastball. He should become a workhorse pitcher that can be the number three or four in the rotation. If Detroit can keep him fit, Wentz will step on the mound in 2021. He is a smart pitcher that can battle away against batters. Wentz isn’t in the class of the other pitching prospects. Regardless, he can carve out a top role for himself in Detroit.