DETROIT — While Tigers general manager Al Avila watches his Major League club claw back from a slow start, he’s tracking some of his prospects who are doing the same. And as top prospect Spencer Torkelson, top pitching prospect Matt Manning and rising prospect Dillon Dingler heat up, the Tigers are plotting the next steps for all of them.
With Torkelson and Dingler, the discussions on a potential promotion from High-A West Michigan have begun.
“We’ve been pondering that, because we’re very excited about Dingler and Torkelson at this point,” Avila said during a Friday afternoon session with reporters discussing the state of the organization. “Obviously they were struggling, particularly Torkelson, and now he’s bounced back and he’s showing why he was the first pick [in last year’s MLB Draft] and why Dingler was the [Tigers’] second pick.
“We’ve actually been already talking about it. It’ll come. We’ll let you guys know when we make that decision, but at some point if they continue to do well, it’s just a natural progression. I would even include Daniel Cabrera on that one. He’s also coming around and putting together a very solid season.”
Torkelson, the third-ranked prospect on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list, reached base safely in all five at-bats for the Whitecaps on Thursday, going 3-for-3 with a double and two walks. He entered Friday batting .396 (19-for-48) with six doubles, four homers, 12 RBIs, 10 walks, nine strikeouts and a 1.287 OPS since hitting his first professional home run on May 22.
Dingler, the Tigers’ No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, entered Friday batting .309 (34-for-110) with seven homers, 22 RBIs and a .976 OPS. Cabrera, also a second-round Draft pick last year, is batting .262 (33-for-126) with three homers, 25 RBIs and a .737 OPS.
Manning, the Tigers’ No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, has been expected to be a midseason callup after opening the season in Triple-A Toledo, but has experienced growing pains facing experienced Triple-A hitters, allowing 11 home runs over 32 1/3 innings. He gave up 13 runs on 15 hits in seven innings over two starts before bouncing back in his last start for the Mud Hens on Wednesday night.
“He’s had a little bit of a struggle at the beginning of the season,” Avila said, “but we believe that these are things that can be fixed. And as a matter of fact, they are [being fixed] as we speak, so we do believe that he’s on the right track.”
Manning threw six innings of two-run ball on Wednesday, allowing four hits — all singles — with two walks and eight strikeouts. Avila watched the game online, while former Tigers manager and current special assistant Jim Leyland watched in person at Fifth Third Field.
If the recovery continues, he could make his Major League debut sooner rather than later.
“There’s a lot of confidence in him, and there’s a lot of optimism there,” Avila said. “We’ll let you know in due time when [a promotion] is going to happen, but I would be paying attention for sure.”
Other observations from Avila’s wide-ranging session:
• Though Avila said he has had preliminary talks with other clubs leading into next month’s Trade Deadline, he downplayed expectations of them as sellers.
“We have a good thing going here,” Avila said, “so I think some teams are looking at some of our players for sure, because we’re playing [well]. The thing is, we’re not in a position right now — and I’ve told these other GMs — where we have to make a trade. What we’re going to try to do is make our team better. If we do make a trade, it’s to make this team better.”
• Avila reasserted the team strategy of taking the best available player in next month’s MLB Draft, regardless of position or timetable for a high school player or college.
“At the end of the day, we’ve always made the decision to take the guy that we feel has the highest upside,” Avila said.
• The Tigers’ long-term picture at shortstop is wide open.
“We’re looking at a lot of different options,” Avila said. “There’s some guys in the Minor Leagues that are a little bit away, although we’ve got Zack Short, [Isaac] Paredes has been playing some shortstop in Toledo. There’s other guys in the Minor Leagues, too, that are coming up that could fill that gap. At the end of the day, we might even look into the free agent market. You never know.”