Major League Baseball
Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene ready to lead the Detroit Tigers' turnaround
Major League Baseball

Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene ready to lead the Detroit Tigers' turnaround

Updated Jul. 29, 2021 9:46 p.m. ET

By Ben Verlander
FOX Sports MLB Writer

DENVER — The future for the Detroit Tigers is bright.

And where better to watch that future firsthand than at the All-Star Futures Game?

The Futures Game is a great opportunity for the game’s best young talents to come together and play on a national stage in front of the world. Also, it’s an opportunity for sports fans around the globe to learn the names that are coming to the big leagues — and coming fast.


The names representing the Detroit Tigers on Sunday? Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene, the No. 1 and No. 2 prospects in the Tigers organization.

Torkelson is a corner infielder and was the No. 1 pick out of Arizona State in the 2020 MLB Draft.

He has catapulted up Detroit's organization, starting this season in High-A West Michigan, where he hit .312 with a 1.009 OPS for the Whitecaps.

In mid-June, Torkelson got a call-up to Double-A Erie, where he currently resides, and his production hasn’t slowed down one bit. He’s sporting a .982 OPS with seven home runs in only 21 games played so far.

Riley Greene, an outfielder, was the Tigers' top pick in the 2019 draft, when Detroit chose him fifth overall out of high school.

Now 20 years old, Greene is skyrocketing toward the majors. He began the 2019 season in rookie league and was promoted not once but twice, first to short season in Connecticut and then to West Michigan, which was Low-A at the time.

Greene started this season in Erie with the Double-A team, so he and Torkelson are currently teammates. Greene is putting together a great season, hitting .285 with a .473 slugging percentage, thanks in large part to his nine homers in 54 games played.

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I met up with Torkelson and Greene right after their first batting practice rounds Sunday at Coors Field to talk about their experience in Denver and much more.

"Just meeting all of these players has been awesome," Greene said.

"There’s a lot of really, really good players, and they’re good guys, too. Also, being on this field — it’s a really nice field, so it’s awesome being out here and seeing the ball fly."

Said Torkelson of his experience so far: "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I’m really fortunate to spend it with Riley. There’s a vibe around here, and it’s electric."

It was evident how excited these two were after their rounds of BP.

"There’s not a ton of nerves, other than just knowing you gotta put one out," Torkelson said. "The ball flies — you’re using a big-league ball — so if you don’t hit one out, that’s not good."

In BP, Greene hit one that landed in the third deck. I asked him if he normally has that kind of power or if he was aided a little by the elevation at Coors.

"I don’t know, man. I’m a leadoff hitter," he said with a laugh. "I could definitely tell in the outfield, though, on fly balls that were hit to me, they were flying further, for sure."

Ben Verlander chats with Tigers' top two prospects Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson

Ben Verlander catches up with the top two prospects for the Detroit Tigers, Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson, at the All-Star Futures Game.

It’s no secret to Tigers fans that things haven’t been easy of late. Detroit hasn't had a winning record since 2016 and then spent a lot of the 2017 season trading its best players for prospects.

When that happens, you know it’s officially rebuilding time.

Then the Tigers' rebuild wasn’t exactly going great the first few years. Not only was the team bad, but there also weren’t many signs that better days were on the horizon.

With Torkelson and Greene, however, those better days are not only in sight but also seem to be getting closer and closer every day.

Detroit is counting on these two, so I asked them how they feel about the impact they are having on the city.

"It’s awesome," Torkelson said. "We’re both winners, and I know Detroit is a winning city, and all we’re going to try to do when we get there is win. And I know everyone there is looking forward to winning."

Said Greene: "Having people behind us and knowing people are there for you has been awesome for me. Whether you play well or not, having them behind you is huge for me."

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In the game Sunday, Torkelson and Greene both started and played the entire game. Greene batted seventh in the American League lineup and went 2-for-3 at the plate with a run scored. Torkelson batted right behind him in the eight-slot and went 1-for-2 with a run of his own.

All in all, it was a strong showing in the Futures Game for the future of the Tigers. Frankly, it has been a while since the city of Detroit had something to cheer about with their Tigers, but these two prospects provide quite the glimmer of hope.

The Detroit Tigers are the heartbeat of Detroit. When the Tigers are winning, the city is just … different.

Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene are just different as well. These two are winners — on and off the field — and they’re coming, Detroit.

They’re coming soon.

Ben Verlander is an MLB Analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the "Flippin' Bats" podcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization. Follow him on Twitter @Verly32.


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