The 2020 World Series is underway and the Los Angeles Dodgers pummeled the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 on Tuesday night at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Tex., 8-3. Soon, baseball will be over and fans will be left without the sweet crack of the bat or the pop of the glove until next spring.
In the meantime, there is still a lot of activity happening outside of the spotlight on the backfields of each team’s player development headquarters. For the Detroit Tigers, who have a great deal hedged on their top prospects, this has become the primary focus of the fanbase heading into the offseason. In particular, there are two names that have garnered a quite a bit of attention in recent days.
Riley and Spencer: Bash Brothers
Jason Beck over at MLB.com took a look at the friendship that is blossoming between the past two first-round draft picks, Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson, in addition to how the two prospect prodigies are progressing through the Tigers’ developmental pipeline. Playing together at the alternate site this past season, as well as currently in the fall instructional league, they have had plenty of time to nurture their mutual respect. Greene had the following to say about this year’s No. 1 pick.
“Tork as a person is one of the best people I’ve ever met in my life. I mean, he’s really good. He works really hard. We’re staying at the hotel, so we literally drive [to the park] together every single day.”
Reciprocally, Torkelson had kind words to say about the close relationship he has with his teammate.
“I could knock on the wall right here and say hi to him, because that’s where his hotel room is. He’s a great dude, and he gives me a ride to the field every day. We get some Starbucks or something before, and we go eat dinner all the time. It’s a really good friendship we’ve got going.”
Sure, it is unlikely that the two will turn into Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, but if they can continue to develop both on and off the field together, the Tigers might have something very special on their hands moving forward.
Torkelson: ‘I’m working hard to be a 10 out of 10’
Speaking of developing, while Torkelson has impressed many with his bat, he appears to be laser-focused also on honing his glove in the hot corner — the opposite side of the diamond from where he spent his final collegiate season with the Arizona State Sun Devils. While many feel like he will end up at first, the 21-year-old slugger is putting a lot of effort into improving his defensive game.
“Give me a couple more in-game groundballs and some more repetition and practice and I’m right there with the best of them, I believe. I played three years in college at first, so I was a 10 out of 10 there. At third base, I’m probably an 8 out of 10 right now, but I’m working hard to be a 10 out of 10.”
An interesting angle to this story is that Tork’s ASU teammate Gage Workman, the Tigers’ fourth-round pick this summer, played third base in college but has shifted over to shortstop in the instructional league — his natural position. It will be interesting to see what kind of chemistry they develop together on the left side of the infield.
Player development and the pandemic
Sticking to the topic of player development, Cody Stavenhagen published a Q&A at The Athletic taking a look at some of the difficulties endured by the franchise’s player pipeline during the novel coronavirus pandemic. He spoke with Kenny Graham, the Tigers’ first-year director of player development who, along with pitching specialist Dan Hubbs, was hired to modernize and streamline the team’s developmental protocols.
COVID-19 has put a damper on Graham’s early efforts to lead the team out of the analytical Dark Ages, as he explains in his interview, but he has still managed to move forward on a few fronts. For instance, when it came to building an infrastructure or a framework for the philosophies the team plans to embrace, Graham noted that the team did spend a lot of time on that topic.
Graham also notes that the franchise has spent a lot of money on upgrading technology and goes on to give a bit of detail into how he has gone about business so far in his first year with Detroit. At very least, the Tigers are not the only team dealing with this problem; hopefully they can find a way to turn the ship around and gain an edge on the rest of the league in the process of dealing with these unprecedented difficulties.
Around the horn
MLB is at a crossroads and so are the Chicago Cubs. How to swindle a stadium deal: “Throw A Billion Dollars From The Helicopter” film explains. What can Brad Keller expect to get in a contract extension right now and should the Royals even offer it? Padres’ Luis Campusano arrested in Georgia, accused of felony marijuana possession. Steve Cohen’s bid to buy the New York Mets was approved by MLB’s Ownership Committee, all but assuring the hedge fund titan will be the team’s new owner. Are the Rays fun to watch? It’s complicated. Dodgers co-owner: Team revenues, fan experience will be ‘back to normal by 2022’. Sticking with Tyler Glasnow in the fifth was an aggressive, competitive move.