AL Central Notes: Torkelson, Greene, Barnes, New Zealand, Tito

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Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson and center fielder Riley Greene are universally credited as being in the upper echelon of baseball prospects. In his latest piece for The Athletic, Cody Stavenhagen breaks down the odds of either Detroit player making the team’s Opening Day roster. Detroit officials have been cagey about handing either first round draftee a starting job, owing to recent injury concerns and asterisks next to both players’ dominant minor league campaigns (Torkelson, owner of .935 OPS last season, has seen his batting average drop with each minor league promotion; Greene, owner of a .921 OPS, struck out 153 times in 124 games). Asterisks aside, both players are clearly primed for Major League action soon, even if some extra seasoning is required before they assume their natural positions at the big league level. The possibility remains that Opening Day is pushed back while the minor league season starts as scheduled, giving top young talent a chance to refine their approaches in the minors and make the Opening Day team.

Some other notes from the AL Central…

  • One of Detroit’s less heralded minor league talents also has reason to believe he’ll be making an impact on the Tigers roster this year. Reliever Jacob Barnes, who signed a pre-lockout minors pact with the team, recently discussed with Evan Petzold of The Detroit Press why he eschewed offers from over a dozen other teams to sign with Detroit. Barnes believes the Tigers coaching staff can help him refine a pitch arsenal that has become inconsistent in the wake of injuries in recent seasons. With a fastball that can once again hit 98mph, the hope for both player and team is that Barnes can build on the form that led to droves of strikeouts and groundballs in his first three seasons as a Brewer.
  • One last Tigers note, of less prudence but more international intrigue than the others. Per MLB.com’s transaction page, the Tigers have signed 18-year-old Clayton Campbell out of New Zealand to a minor league deal. The young prospect is viewed as third baseman at this point, though he also has catching and pitching experience. As an international free agent, Campbell was exempt from any restrictions that would prevent a team from signing him to a minor league deal during the lockout. He’ll look to work his way through the Tigers’ minor league system and become the first New Zealand native to reach the Major Leagues.
  • ESPN’s Buster Olney has a piece of good news for Guardians fans, reporting that manager Terry Francona remains on track to return in good health next season. After a number of health woes the past few seasons, it certainly registers as a positive development to hear Francona is on the upswing. Cleveland brass, fans, and rivals alike know firsthand how impactful the 2-time World Series winner can be from the dugout, as he’s guided his club to a strong 753-601 record during his 9-year Cleveland tenure.



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