Detroit — They’re a long way from Detroit, and not just in freeway miles.
That doesn’t stop Tigers manager AJ Hinch and the rest of the coaching staff from keeping tabs on what’s going on in event the lowest rungs of the minor-league system.
For instance, take Single-A West Michigan Whitecaps stars Spencer Torkelson (drafted first overall in 2020) and Dillon Dingler (drafted in the second round of 2020), who are tearing things up out in Comstock Park.
“I pay attention, because I care about the organization and they’re a big part of our future,” Hinch said. “Like everybody, we’re curious.
“Having a player-development background, I don’t really ride the roller coaster, good or bad, with these kids that are in A ball. Quite honestly, I hope they get challenged, and I hope that they have to deal with a little bit of adversity.”
Torkelson, 21, a corner infielder, has seen adversity, notably in spring training, when he scuffled, and early in his time with the Whitecaps.
Those days seem so long ago. Torkelson’s last out came on Wednesday, and even that was a sacrifice fly. He has five homers and 24 RBIs in 29 games this season, and has six hits in his last two games — he was a triple short of the cycle Friday. Of his 31 hits, 14 have been for extra bases.
Dingler, 22, a catcher, has eight home runs and 24 RBIs in 30 games for the Whitecaps. He’s batting .436 this month.
Torkelson, who had a little injury scare recently with a hamstring strain, has an OPS just over 1.000, and Dingler has an OPS just under 1.000.
Both could be headed to Double-A Erie in short order, as general manager Al Avila told reporters in Detroit earlier this week.
There are other prospects on Hinch’s radar, too, like outfielder Riley Greene, 20, a first-round pick in 2019 who has an .810 OPS at Double-A Erie; right-hander Paul Richan, 24, acquired in the Nick Castellanos trade with the Chicago Cubs in 2019 who is impressing at Double-A Erie; and right-handger Angel De Jesus, 24, who was signed a a 19-year-old out of the Dominican Republic and hasn’t allowed a single run in 13 appearances for Triple-A Toledo.
Hinch said he’ll check the box scores, and he’ll browse the reports filed after every game by minor-league managers and coaches. There’s interest, sure, just not obsession.
“I know where our prospects are,” said Hinch, “but they’re developing below us for a reason, and we’re hopeful that they’re gonna be a part of the future.
“It’s a fine line. Our immediate attention is always at the major-league level.”
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