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The future is now for the Detroit Tigers as top prospect Spencer Torkelson will make the Opening Day roster
There inevitably comes a time when a Major League franchise has to bid farewell to one era and usher in another. For the Detroit Tigers, 2022 is shaping up to be that defining moment.
Spencer Torkelson, drafted by the Tigers with the first-overall pick in June 2020, will make the Opening Day roster and join the club when they head north to begin the season at home against the Chicago White Sox on Friday. The first baseman of the future was given the news by General Manager Al Avila on Saturday in a ceremony held in manager A.J. Hinch’s office, according to MLive’s Evan Woodbery.
The promotion is an acknowledgment of Torkelson’s star-in-the-making potential. While at Arizona State, he broke home run records first set by Barry Bonds. In his first year in the minors in 2021, he hit 30 home runs and had a .935 OPS in 121 games across three levels. He’s batting .280 with four extra-base hits so far this spring.
Joining Avila and Hinch in the meeting was a player who the Tigers are counting on Torkelson one day replacing. The 22-year-old Torkelson was just three years old when Miguel Cabrera made his MLB debut. The future Hall of Famer has handled first base for the Tigers since being traded there by the Marlins before the 2008 season. Now approaching 39, Cabrera hit his 500th home run last August and is 13 hits away from 3,000.
But there was Cabrera on Saturday, nearing the end of his career, ceremonially handing Torkelson a first base glove. It was a gesture that implied Cabrera’s time was done; this is Torkelson’s position and team now.
Tigers future is bright with prospects such as Spencer Torkelson
The Tigers haven’t made the postseason since 2014. Their 77 wins last year, Hinch’s first as manager, were the most for the franchise in six seasons. Those years of losing, though, left the Tigers with a loaded farm system full of prized prospects. Casey Mize, like Torkelson a former No. 1 overall pick, and Tarik Skubal are already in the Majors. Torkelson is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the fourth-best prospect. Riley Greene, the franchise’s center-fielder of the future, is the fifth-ranked prospect.
Greene was expected to join Torkelson on the Opening Day roster before fracturing his foot on a foul ball on Friday. The injury will postpone his debut for a few weeks. But the fact that the Tigers were willing to count on their young stars, instead of manipulating their service time by keeping them in the minors at the start of the year, shows that they are ready to win and believe players like Torkelson can help them do just that. Prospects like Torkelson that are promoted so quickly don’t come around often; of the No. 1 overall picks since 2000, only one, Dansby Swanson, was on an Opening Day roster within two years of getting drafted. Torkelson will be the second.
“We want them to make the team. That’s our hope,” Avila told MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi last week. “That would mean they’ve been successful and are in a position to help us make the playoffs this year.”
The torch has been passed. Cabrera is ready to ride off in the sunset as one of the game’s legendary sluggers. Torkelson’s time is just beginning. The Tigers recognize it and rewarded their young star who will be a fixture in their lineup for years to come, just as Cabrera was for so long.