Spencer Torkelson: Tigers 2021 Minor League Player Of The Year

Few critique themselves quite like Spencer Torkelson.

That may seem unwarranted for the 22-year-old first baseman who was the top draft prospect in 2020 and was selected by the Tigers with the first overall pick.

“He just expects a lot of himself,” Triple-A Toledo hitting coach Jeff Branson said. “Obviously, there’s tons of pressure from his draft status. He puts a lot of pressure on himself, but he is a very confident hitter every time he gets in a box.”

That pressure became a reality when Torkelson went 1-for-16 in his first four games for High-A West Michigan.

Branson had the opportunity to work with Torkelson at the Tigers’ alternate training site in 2020 and got to witness how highly the Arizona State product values the opportunity to learn and improve.

“This game is about adjustments,” Branson said. “From pitch to pitch, game to game, at-bat to at-bat. No matter who he’s facing, there’s going to be some kind of adjustments during the at-bat. That’s how good he is.”

Once the mental pieces began to click, Torkelson advanced rapidly. The Tigers promoted him to Double-A Erie on June 15 and to Triple-A Toledo on Aug. 17.

“There’s something about learning your identity in a new environment,” an American League scout said. “His confidence spiked once he got over that hump with West Michigan.”

Torkelson popped 30 home runs in his pro debut, one that totaled 121 games and included a .267/.383/.552 batting line as well as 29 doubles, 77 walks and 114 strikeouts.

Drafted as a third baseman, Torkelson worked exclusively at first base in Triple-A. He is Detroit’s longterm answer at the position.

“When he comes to the park, he has a purpose every day,” Branson said. “Every day he comes to the park and goes to the cage and does his routines. Even in his batting practice, he’s constantly trying to get better at something every day, no matter how big or small it is.

“He just has that mentality that I want to be the best and that’s a great thing.”


— The Tigers announced Ryan Garko as their new vice president of player development, a position previously held by David Littlefield, who now becomes a special assignment scout for the organization. Garko, 40 had served the last two seasons as the Angels’ instant replay coordinator and coaching assistant.

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