The Tigers are planning to select infield prospect Ryan Kreidler onto the major league roster tomorrow, relays Chris McCosky of the Detroit News (twitter link). first baseman Spencer Torkelson will also be recalled from Triple-A Toledo, seemingly filling the two vacant active roster spots associated with the September expansion from 26 to 28 players. Detroit technically needs to create a 40-man roster vacancy for Kreidler, but they can do so by transferring Austin Meadows to the 60-day injured list without affecting his eligibility timeline.
Kreidler is one of the better prospects in the Detroit organization. A fourth-round pick from UCLA in 2019, the 6’4″ infielder spent his draft year in short season ball. After the canceled 2020 minor league campaign, he was bumped to Double-A Erie in 2021. Kreidler performed well over 88 games there before mashing following a late-season bump to Triple-A Toledo. He entered 2022 among the top 11 farmhands in the system according to each of Baseball America, FanGraphs and Keith Law of the Athletic.
After the impressive late-season run in the upper minors, Kreidler looked like a candidate to factor into the MLB mix early this year. He broke his right hand in April, though, an injury that cost him six weeks of action. By the time he was healthy again in early June, the Tigers had fallen well out of the potential playoff mix, and they elected to give Kreidler a longer run in Toledo. He’s played in 55 games there this year, hitting .218/.359/.421 with a robust 14.7% walk rate but a worrisome 29% strikeout percentage.
During their midseason re-rank of the Detroit system, BA slotted Kreidler eighth. The outlet raises concerns about his propensity for whiffs but praises his defense all around the infield and solid power upside. The 24-year-old has played primarily shortstop in the minors, although he seems likelier to factor in at second or third base down the stretch with Javier Baez entrenched at short. Jeimer Candelario has underwhelmed at the hot corner all season, while the Tigers have turned to utilityman Willi Castro at the keystone with Jonathan Schoop on the injured list.
Kreidler would’ve needed to occupy a 40-man roster spot this offseason if the Tigers didn’t want to make him available in the Rule 5 draft. They’ll take advantage of the expanded active rosters to get a look at him a few weeks earlier than necessary. With the club’s attention squarely turned to 2023 at this point, there’s an opportunity for Kreidler to try to get off on a strong foot as he looks to carve out a spot next season.
Torkelson is already on the 40-man roster, of course. He broke camp as the team’s primary first baseman. The former first overall pick and consensus top prospect had hit very well in the minor leagues, and the club justifiably felt he could carry that over against MLB pitching. That hasn’t happened yet, as Torkelson owns a .197/.282/.295 line with only five home runs through 298 plate appearances.
After three months of struggles, the Tigers optioned the 23-year-old back to Toledo in mid-July. He’s hit .228/.347/.394 with five longballs in 34 games since then. That’s obviously far better than his first crack against major league arms, but it’s still well shy of the .238/.350/.531 mark he posted there late last season — particularly from a power perspective.
Torkelson is still a key piece of the future in Detroit, even if his initial MLB look was underwhelming. Manager AJ Hinch seems likely to pencil him back in as the everyday first baseman for the final five weeks, with Torkelson trying to establish himself as the favorite for that job coming out of camp next year. He spent enough time on his optional stint that he won’t accrue a full year of MLB service this season, so Torkelson will be under club control through at least 2028.