PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — It wasn’t too long ago when the West Michigan Whitecaps opened the 2021 season with a team full of new faces on May 4.
Of those new faces and some of the Detroit Tigers’ top prospects, there have been struggles and great moments early.
Spencer Torkelson, Dillon Dingler, Daniel Cabrera and Parker Meadows are all ranked inside the top-10 prospects in Detroit’s minor league system — according to the MLB Pipeline — with Andre Lipcius just outside of it.
So far, those five players have accumulated a batting average of .210 (67-of-319), with Lipcius leading the team at .277, including 11 RBI’s and three home runs. Meadows has struggled to bottom out the group, hitting just .129 in 70 plate appearances. Dingler is hitting .228 with three homers, Torkelson is hitting .220 and Cabrera is hitting .206 but leads the team with 13 RBI’s.
Manager Brayan Pena likes some of what he has seen so far but knows there is room for improvement.
“Offensively man, we are starting to feel pretty good, we like where we are at right now compared to where we started,” Pena said. “We just need to keep on this grind. The numbers were low to start, but we are continuing to make adjustments and it’s nice to see it turn into some positive results.”
Torkelson was not active for Tuesday night’s game after injuring his hamstring on Sunday against Wisconsin. So far this season, the Tigers No. 1 overall draft pick a year ago is 13-of-59 (.220), with one home run and 11 runs batted in.
Before his injury, however, Torkelson was heating up his bat by going 7-of-17 (.411) over a five-game stretch with four walks as well. His highlight moment was a walk-off single on May 16 to give the Whitecaps a 2-1 victory over the Great Lakes Loons.
According to the Whitecaps, Torkelson has a shot to return by the weekend portion of the series with Lake County.
For some of the Whitecaps’ young talented players, the timely hitting has been impressive early on. Tuesday was another good example for Lipcius, as he plated two runs on an opposite field double to right for the winning runs in a 4-3 victory to open the homestand against Lake County.
In his last three games, he has went 4-of-11 to bump up his average.
“(Lipcius) has been working really hard and is taking in lots of information,” Pena said. “He goes through a lot in what we call the hitting lab, where he is working on his mechanics daily and it’s starting to turn into results quickly. I think we have him feeling comfortable and in a good position to be successful at this level.”
Cabrera is also a player who has started to perk up his batting average as of late. The right fielder had at least one hit in his last nine games and has gone 8-for-15 (.533) over his last four games.
Right now, the Tigers’ No. 6 prospect is seeing the ball better than anyone on the Whitecaps.
“I feel really great and playing with this team has been awesome so far,” Cabrera said. “I’m working to stay within myself and not trying to do too much. If I stay within the guidelines of what my coaches are giving me day to day, I hope I can keep this up.
“Everyone goes through their ups and downs and handles them in different ways, I just want to be a good teammate on and off the field.”
The Whitecaps are now back to .500 for the first time this season. As the young bunch continues to play more games together, it seems the Whitecaps’ confidence is growing as a team.
Winning baseball games and progressing to professional ball players is what Pena wants to continue to see.
“We are starting to see these guys not just bring the passion for the game, but a strong energy to the field every night,” Pena said. “We have to give a lot of credit to our pitching staff for keeping us in games and Dingler behind the plate, who we feel very comfortable with. It’s a work in progress like we expected, but it’s fun to see this talented group. We have start to work together and win some games.”