The Detroit Tigers picked University of Alabama pitcher Spencer Turnbull with their second-round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, and he could be a big piece in the future plans for the Tigers pitching staff.
Turnbull was the ace of Alabama’s staff this season, posting a 2.22 ERA while holding batters to a .192 batting average in a team-high 93.1 innings. His win-loss totals, 5-7, are skewed by the Crimson Tide’s inability to score runs behind Turnbull, so don’t let that fool you.
Turnbull is a hard throwing right-hander with a fastball that can reach the upper 90s, and he fits the profile of a future reliever. Tigers VP of Amateur Scouting David Chadd stated that the Tigers view Turnbull as a starter, but that might not be his best fit long-term.
Of the Tigers’ current top prospects, three are starting pitchers in Robbie Ray, Jake Thompson and Jonathon Crawford. They are performing well, and with the spots occupied at the major league level, Turnbull’s path to the big leagues is blocked.
That is not the case with the relief option. With the bullpen struggling at the major league level and very little depth in the minors, putting Turnbull in the bullpen could be a great option.
Because of Turnbull’s high work load at Alabama, it is likely that the Tigers will use he out of the bullpen at some point this summer to limit his innings. If he performs well in that role, it could sway the Tigers to keep him there full-time.
To be successful, Turnbull will need to improve his secondary pitches. His fastball is a good pitch, but he needs to work on pitches to back that up. If he can do so, Turnbull could find his way into the Tigers’ bullpen sooner rather than later, possibly even following the path that Corey Knebel took this year.