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3 Players To Watch Series

LOD’s 3 Players to Watch: Detroit Tigers

For this series, LOD writers will pick three players from each MLB team that we feel are players to watch in the 2023 season.

If you have been following the Detroit Tigers rebuild the way that I have, you know that the emphasis of the rebuild has been pitching.  The strategy seemed to be, gather as many young arms as possible in the farm system and hope that some of them pan out.  There’s Matt Manning (2016), Alex Faedo (2017) and Casey Mize (2018), all first round picks in the MLB Draft.  Mize was number one overall.  Then there was Jackson Jobe (2021).  There was also Franklin Perez who came as part of the Verlander trade (2017).  Thus far, the Tigers have not seen a whole lot of return on this investment.

So What about the Hitters?

Hitters will be the focus of my three players to watch.  The Tigers turned their attention to hitters in the 2019 and 2020 draft with the picks of Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson.  They also snagged a 19th round pick named Kerry Carpenter in the 2019 draft that slugged his way to Detroit last season.  The question this season for the Tigers will be, can this young core of everyday players develop into the offensive force the Tigers need to compete in the AL Central?

Riley Greene, OF

No question that Riley Greene has been a favorite here at Legends on Deck, but not just because he’s been a highly ranked prospect with the Tigers.  We’ve written extensively on Greene’s story going back to his roots at Hagerty High School (Oviedo, FL).  In his 2021 combined minor league season, Greene demonstrated his ability to be an offensive star, posting 24 HRs / 84 RBIs / .301 BA / .921 OPS.  He was on the fast track to start in Detroit in 2022, but a Spring Training injury set him back.  Greene’s Detroit debut was delayed until June.

In his first 95 games with with Detroit, Greene hit 5 HRs / 42 RBIs / .253 BA / .682 OPS.  Not a bad start for his big league debut.  What the Tigers really need from Greene this year is to start performing like a #5 overall pick.  What does that look like?  Well, a 20 HR / 70 RBI / .280 BA / .800 OPS season would be incredibly encouraging to fans.  And given his talent, those numbers aren’t out of the question.  Not to mention, he plays a stellar centerfield.

Spencer Torkelson, INF

There’s been high hopes for Spencer Torkelson since he was drafted #1 overall in 2020 out of Arizona State.  While it’s been assumed he’s now a first baseman, Torkelson’s offensive numbers left something to be desired in 2022.  Torkelson played 110 games in the big leagues and produced 8 HRs / 28 RBIs / .203 BA / .604 OPS.  Perhaps, it was just a matter of timing.  In 2021, Torkelson hit 30 HRs / 91 RBIs / .267 BA / .935 OPS in the minor leagues.   If Torkelson was able to replicate this at the big league level, he’d be among the most productive hitters in baseball.

Topps 2022 Factory Set Rookie Card

Kerry Carpenter, OF

In 2019, Kerry Carpenter was selected in the 19th Round of the MLB Draft out of Virginia Tech.  Like Greene, Carpenter is also a product of Central Florida (Eustis High School).  In 2022, Carpenter absolutely exploded in Erie and Toledo.  He put up 30 HRs / 75 RBIs / .313 BA / 1.025 OPS in just 98 minor league games.  He was the MiLB home run leader prior to being called up in August 2022.  Upon his arrival in Detroit, Carpenter played 31 games, putting up 6 HRs / 10 RBIs / .252 BA / .795 OPS.  If he can roll some of his 2022 productivity into the 2023 season, Carpenter can provide a bat that the Tigers need badly.

Photo credit to the Toledo Blade

Arms or Bats?

While the Tigers rebuilding process has been largely focused on the development of pitching prospects, the team is desperately in need of hitting.  The Tigers ranked dead last in both home runs and runs batted in and near the bottom in all offensive categories.   It’s hard to compete when you aren’t producing runs.  In 2022, I made some bold predictions for the Tigers that fell flat on their face.  I’m much more cautious this season.  However, strong, productive, full seasons from the  young trio of Greene, Torkelson and Carpenter could jump start the Detroit offense and allow them to compete in the AL Central.

Brian is the Managing Editor at Legends on Deck and Co-Host on Legends On Deck Podcast. He's been writing about baseball at LOD since 2017. He grew up in the Detroit area and is a lifelong Tigers fan. However, he shares some affinity for his son George's favorite team, the Atlanta Braves. Brian also has a particular interest in the amateur side of the game, including high school, college and collegiate summer league baseball. Brian and George also love collecting and selling baseball cards. You can find them selling on eBay (@Kossball) or posting on George's Instagram (@Kossball). Brian lives in Horizon West (Winter Garden), Florida with his wife (Grace), three daughters and George the Card Kid. You can also reach him at brianmkoss@gmail.com

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