Riley Greene has been giving fellow Tigers top prospect Spencer Torkelson a ride to Tigertown each morning since the Florida instructional league began last week in Lakeland, Fla. On Monday, Torkelson returned the favor by driving him home.
Torkelson’s first home run in a competitive pro game showed the big-time
Torkelson’s first home run in a competitive pro game showed the big-time pull power that made the former Arizona State slugger the top pick in the MLB Draft this past summer. Despite a two-strike approach, he not only connected with a 2-2 fastball, but he sent it to the left-field berm at Joker Marchant Stadium.
“My two-strike approach is always sitting on a heater away,” Torkelson said. “If you sit on a heater away and try to hit it over the second baseman’s head, your eyes will see that offspeed pitch, and then that inside fastball is just a reaction. I reacted and obviously got it — got it in the air and on the barrel — and it went out.
“It also helps to have Riley on first base because he has some speed. And you’ve got to think that the pitcher doesn’t want to spike a curveball because he could be stealing. That’s just a free bag for Riley, so it kind of gives you more confidence that he’s going to throw the heater.”
Spencer Torkelson going yard at instructs 👀
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) October 19, 2020
It’s a sign of the times that almost right after the game, Torkelson knew the metrics of the moonshot.
“Wind was howling a little bit, so I wasn’t positive it was going,” Torkelson said. “I believe it was a 39 degree launch angle, like 104 [mph] off the bat. So it wasn’t a no-doubter, but I thought I got it.”
Torkelson got one at-bat Monday before a typical Florida downpour washed out the rest of his day, but it was enough of a preview of Torkelson and Greene as a run-production duo to give Tigers fans hope for the future. It’s also a combination on which Detroit’s rebuilding effort hinges.
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Though Greene was drafted out of high school in 2019, there’s just a year of age difference between them. Greene just turned 20 last month after Torkelson turned 21 in August. The two have formed a fast friendship.
“Tork as a person is one of the best people I’ve ever met in my life,” Greene said last week. “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.”
In fact, they’re practically neighbors.
“I could knock on the wall right here and say hi to him, because that’s where his hotel room is,” Torkelson said during a video conference with reporters Monday. “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.”
While Greene raved about the work he put in on his swing in Toledo this summer, Torkelson began his transition from first to third base with help from Hall of Famer Alan Trammell. It remains a work in progress, but he feels his comfort level improving.
“I played three years in college at first, so I was a 10 out of 10 there,” Torkelson said. “And at third base, I’m probably 8 out of 10 right now, but I’m working hard to be a 10 out of 10.”
Between Torkelson’s advanced hitting abilities and the immense progress Greene showed this summer, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them at the same level as each other in the Tigers’ system next year. In that sense, instructional league is a sneak preview. It’s also their first chance to face players in a different uniform, rather than teammates.
“Way better than facing your own guys, I’ll tell you that,” Torkelson said. “I was getting sick of facing Tigers. I wanted to put the hurt on somebody else.”