Top prospect Torkelson ‘excited for real competition’ with Whitecaps

West Michigan Whitecaps

Spencer Torkelson practices with the West Michigan Whitecaps at LMCU Ballpark on May 3, 2021. (Andrew McDonald/WOOD TV8)

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — With all of the weight of being the no. 1 overall MLB draft pick, there wasn’t an eye in the Detroit Tigers organization not watching Spencer Torkelson during spring training.

Coming from Arizona State, where he hit 25 home runs as a freshman to break Barry Bonds’ (a previous MLB all-time home run leader) former record with the program, Torkelson earned his top pick.

So what happened in Lakeland during spring training wasn’t how the 21-year-old wanted things to go. Torkelson went 1-for-27 with four walks and 16 strikeouts in Grapefruit League games. It was a humbling experience for a player used to being dominant. 

But he said the experience was all about learning and growing into the player he wants to be. He now has the chance to do that with the West Michigan Whitecaps, and expectations are high.

“Spring training is fun but the stats don’t count,” Torkelson said. “No one really cares if you win or lose. But right now, it’s the regular season. It means something. It’s easier to play when it means something.”

Spencer Torkelson takes batting practice with the West Michigan Whitecaps at LMCU Ballpark on May 3, 2021. (Andrew McDonald/WOOD TV8)

Torkelson will finally have the chance to do just that starting Tuesday night in Fort Wayne against the TinCaps.

The last time the former Sun Devil played in a regular season contest was March 8, 2020. He never got to play in the PAC-12 season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With all of the changes that have happened to Torkelson since he was selected by the Tigers last June, this will be his first chance at playing consistent baseball in a professional format.

“I think I’m most looking forward to playing with a team again with a common goal of winning,” Torkelson said. “That brings out the best in all of my teammates and everyone. That’s probably what I’m looking forward to most, besides having a full crowd cheering us on.”

He joins a group of young and talented prospects like himself. Dillon Dingler, Parker Meadows and Daniel Cabrera are all ranked in the top 10 on the MLB pipeline in Detroit’s organization. They will be guided by a new manager in Brayan Peña.

In his first season of play with the Whitecaps, Peña couldn’t ask for a better group to coach and believes Torkelson is a great talent already.

“I think the most important thing for Tork is for him to just go out there and have fun,” Peña said. “Our goal is for him to go out there and enjoy what he does while getting better every day. We want him to get closer to making the jump to the big league level.”

Torkelson plays both third and first base, but according to Peña, right now they will mostly use him at the hot corner while mixing in some starts at first. 

A lot of people have been wondering what the Tigers would elect to do with a talent on either corner of the infield. Torkelson doesn’t think it makes a difference where he plays — he just wants to be consistently good.

“Some of (his position) has been blown out of proportion a little bit,” Torkelson said. “It’s the same game, first base, third base, outfield, it really doesn’t matter. Alan Trammell’s number one rule is you’ve got to catch it and then make a good throw to first base or wherever it is going. I feel comfortable anywhere; third base is coming along well though.”

Regardless of where the Whitecaps play Torkelson, he should be a pivotal part to the team’s success. 

Spencer Torkelson practices with the West Michigan Whitecaps at LMCU Ballpark on May 3, 2021. (Andrew McDonald/WOOD TV8)

Right now in his mind, it’s not about moving up or down, it’s about winning with his team and the excitement to finally be playing real competition on a daily basis.

“There is just something about this group that feels good,” Torkelson said. “We love hanging around each other and all get along. It’s going to make us produce even more on the field, I think.”

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