Spencer Torkelson may be breaking out of an early slump.
Detroit Tigers fans know Spencer Torkelson leads the team in home runs with four. Despite his recent struggles, yesterday’s game was evidence his bat is showing signs of waking up.
At each level last season, Torkelson was making adjustments. His early performance at High-A West Michigan was so poor some dared to utter the word “bust.” He began the season 1-for-16 with 10 strikeouts, and after his first 115 plate appearances at West Michigan he was batting .258 (23-for-89) with 20 walks to 25 strikeouts. But he was starting to hit, and in his final 26 plate appearances with the Whitecaps, he went 11-for-20 (.550) with 4 walks to 3 strikeouts.
Torkelson was then promoted to Double-A Erie, and he didn’t need too much of an adjustment. He went 18-for-66 with six home runs in nineteen games, for an impressive wRC+ of 158. He was an on-base machine, and he was hitting to all fields.
Triple-A Toledo changes
When he arrived in Toledo in mid-August, I noticed he was trying to go to right field, which he was doing in Erie. While the opinions about the differences in Triple-A and Double-A pitching differ, he was hitting home runs. Whether it was the juiced Triple-A ball or not, Torkelson was trying to hit to all fields, like he did at his previous two stops.
But if there was one constant, he was hitting the ball hard. Here’s an example of that back on August 17th of 2021.
Spencer Torkelson hits it hard (106 MPH) but it’s directly at the shortstop for a double play. pic.twitter.com/AXrYrbpDh7
— Tigers Minor League Report (@tigersMLreport) August 18, 2021
Spencer Torkelson with a 400-foot fly out in his 2nd plate appearance. pic.twitter.com/hs21kw9qlK
— Tigers Minor League Report (@tigersMLreport) August 17, 2021
But as the Mud Hens season rolled into late September, Torkelson started to connect. A majority of his hits were going to the opposite field with power.
Spencer Torkelson with a HUGE 3-run blast to the opposite field to give Toledo a 5-3 lead in the 7th. His 28th home run of the year. pic.twitter.com/1QhPMnV9oD
— Tigers Minor League Report (@tigersMLreport) September 25, 2021
What do the 2022 numbers say?
So what does this all have to do with his struggles in 2022? There are underlying numbers that tell us why he has not been sent down to Toledo. He is under league average in solid contact rate (3% vs. league average of 5%) and well above-average in pull rate (43.3% to 36.6%). It makes sense as if you look at his spray chart below, a majority of his non-HR hits are to right field.
In the home stand against Oakland and Baltimore, Torkelson was trying to pull the ball. From May 9th until May 14th, this is how he fared while trying to go to the left side more:
- Five ground balls to 3rd or shortstop
- Two fly balls to left for outs
- Two singles to 3rd base, and one of those looked to be an error but was instead marked as a single
Then, in the second game of the Rays series, his only hit in three plate appearances was a single to right. Last night, he hit a double to left and a home run to left. While three of his four home runs are to left, it was his first double to left and first extra base hit since April 23rd. The splits from home to away, while working with a larger sample size at home, (9-for-71, .124) compared to away (6-for-40, .181) show he isnt not comfortable at Comerica yet.
I threw a lot at you in terms of his numbers, but it appears Spencer Torkelson is trying to go with the pitches more, which is why we saw so many grounders to the left side compared to all fields earlier in the season. While the Detroit Tigers offense has been anemic, Spencer Torkelson still leads the team in home runs and opposite field hits. Yesterday could be the start of a productive month of June.