1 step closer: Torkelson, Greene to Triple-A

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT — No, Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene aren’t coming to the big leagues in 2021. But they’ll finish out the summer right down the road.

The Tigers announced Sunday night that they’re promoting their top two prospects, along with shortstop Ryan Kreidler, to Triple-A Toledo. They’re expected to make their Mud Hens debuts Tuesday night against Indianapolis at Fifth Third Field.

The expectation had been for Greene and Torkelson — the No. 2 overall prospect on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 — to play out the season at Double-A Erie, waiting until next year to be tested against the veteran pitching in Triple-A. But their recent hitting tears essentially pushed their timetables.

“Any time a big-time prospect has a good week or a good game or a good stretch, there’s always this curiosity whether or not they need to be challenged for the next level,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said Sunday morning when asked about their situations.

For Greene and Torkelson, the week was exceptional.

Greene, MLB Pipeline’s No. 2 Tigers prospect and No. 13 overall, homered in four consecutive games while batting 18-for-39 (.462) with six homers, four doubles, one triple and 17 RBIs over his final nine games in Double-A.

Greene was the Tigers’ top pick (No. 5 overall) in the 2019 Draft, and despite being one of the youngest players in Double-A Northeast, the 20-year-old finished his SeaWolves tenure batting .298 with 16 doubles, five triples, 16 homers, 54 RBIs and a .905 OPS. Torkelson went 7-for-7 with three home runs and six RBIs in a doubleheader on Thursday against Altoona. He went 21-for-59 (.356) with five homers and 12 RBIs in his final 15 games for Erie, raising his average from .216 to .263, and his OPS from .845 to .933.

Though Torkelson and Greene are close friends and tied together as the future of the Tigers’ lineup, they do not have to advance as a tandem. Greene has been with Erie all season, while Torkelson began the year at High-A West Michigan before advancing to Double-A with catcher and No. 3 Tigers prospect Dillon Dingler.

“There’s been consideration to keep them in Double-A, keep them all working, playing well,” Hinch said. “They’ve got a good thing going on. [Manager] Arnie [Beyeler] is doing a great job there with that group. And there’s also an argument for giving them an uncomfortable setting of something new. …

“They’re doing great at developing and learning how to play every single day. They’ve both gone through a couple of dry spells of performance, but then come out of it and had some really good games.”

Like Greene, Kreidler — the Tigers’ fourth-round Draft pick in 2019 and No. 19 prospect — has only played in Double-A this season. The 23-year-old bypassed Low-A and High-A with a strong Spring Training that included several solid performances as an extra player for the Tigers in Grapefruit League play. He batted .256 (89-for-347) with 15 doubles, 15 homers, 36 RBIs and a .754 OPS while batting second between Greene and Torkelson. His 32-to-119 walk-to-strikeout ratio is a concern, but his defense at short was key to Erie’s infield.

Hinch knows the tug of war involved in such decisions, having been a farm director in his career. He also knows what all three prospects will encounter at Triple-A, where they’ll face more experienced pitching.

“The next level will teach something that they’ve never experienced before,” Hinch said. “Maybe it’s more offspeed pitches in Triple-A, or you start game-planning, or the lefties are a little bit better. And now you’re facing guys with Major League service time. That’s going to be new for them.”

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