The way these two have been crushing Midwest League pitching of late, this isn’t a surprise. It is, however, a positive sign. On Sunday, the Detroit Tigers announced that Spencer Torkelson and Dillon Dingler, two of their top three position prospects, have been promoted to the Double-A Erie SeaWolves, where they’ll join the third member of the group, outfielder Riley Greene.
With the minor league schedules this season locked in playing six game series from Tuesday to Sunday, we’ve been watching the Tigers for an announcement on a Sunday evening. So the timing isn’t much of a surprise either.
The Tigers first overall selection in the 2020 draft, first baseman Spencer Torkelson had a slow start to his pro career, leading to some jitters as he struggled mightily in spring camp and then through the first two weeks of the High-A West Michigan Whitecaps’ season. But of course such fears were wildly overstated. The power hitter out of Arizona State just needed a little time to settle in, and he’s quickly become an absolute terror to Midwest League pitching.
Torkeson has five home runs in 137 plate appearances, with a .445 on base percentage and an ISO of .255. Currently he holds a 20.4 percent strikeout rate to a 17.5 percent walk rate, and those numbers have tipped decisively and heavily in his favor in June. Everything has come off the bat hot in recent weeks, and Torkelson now has 10 doubles and a triple to go with the homers.
As for Dingler, taken first overall in the second round in 2020, we wondered if it might take a bit longer for a promotion as the Tigers work on his development as a catcher. Frankly, Dingler has looked really good behind the plate, showing soft hands, quick pop times, and a strong, accurate throwing arm. You just never know if they might hold him in West Michigan to work on some finer points. The bat has already emphatically made the case for a promotion.
Dingler still has some vulnerabilities to pitchers who can spot fastballs up and their breaking ball down and away, but he’s also done tremendous damage. The Ohio State product has eight home runs, 15 extra base hits overall in 137 plate appearances. He’s hit .297 with tons of hard contact, while a strikeout rate of 26.3 percent vs. a walk rate of 9.5 percent does show a little room for improvement. However, we’ve seen him crush pitches to all fields, and that plate coverage and raw power bodes well for his future.
Dingler may be well tested for a while against Double-A caliber pitchers, so expect some adjustment period. Still, he’s been everything the Tigers could’ve hoped when they drafted him. The catching skills, leadership ability, athleticism, and power at the plate are all looking even better than advertised, and the 22-year-old is guaranteed to find himself vaulting up onto top 100 lists. We won’t be surprised to see a 60 FV grade placed on him here or there, though a 55 may be more reasonable until we see how well he handles pitchers who can command a fastball and breaking ball with some consistency.
The move should allow catching prospect Cooper Johnson to move up to a more appropriate level from Low-A, and potentially Lakeland first baseman Jimmy Kerr as well. Presumably, further promotions will start rolling in soon as the Gulf Coast League opens in two weeks, and the 2021 MLB draft creeps closer. For now, the Tigers just have to be pleased that their two prized picks are progressing as hoped. The Erie SeaWolves roster just got a heck of a lot more exciting, and for those near Erie, PA, or willing to take the trip, the future core of what we hope is a winning future for the Tigers are now all in one spot.
Thrilled for Spencer Torkelson & Dillon Dingler on their promotions to Double-A. They’re both great ballplayers, but even better people.— Dan Hasty (@ThatDanHasty) June 13, 2021
Bittersweet day in West Michigan, but this was always the plan. As a @tigers fan, I’m thrilled they earned it so quickly.
Onward & upward. pic.twitter.com/bQB7GVQU1i