Mesa, Arizona —— Detroit Tigers right-handed pitching prospect Spencer Turnbull allowed two runs (one earned) in four innings of work at the Arizona Fall League on Wednesday afternoon, representing the Mesa Solar Sox. The righty, who struck out five and allowed four hits and no walks in his outing, sat 94-96 mph with his fastball throughout the full outing, and played it off an 90-92 mph two-seam fastball, a 76-79 mph slider, and an 86-88 mph changeup.
It was my first time seeing Turnbull, a University of Alabama product who the Detroit Tigers drafted in 2014, and who wrapped the 2017 regular season split between High-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie. We’ve got video of Spencer Turnbull pitching in that game this afternoon, which you can see here:
I’d love to see Spencer Turnbull a couple more times before publishing a more substantive scouting report on the Detroit Tigers prospect, but my hunch is that he probably winds up in the bullpen. He’s a true low three-quarters guy with a ton of drop and drive in his delivery and loose, easy whip-like arm action with mid-90s heat. He’s strong with a great frame (6’3″, 215), but the drop-and-drive look combined with a pretty significant back shoulder drop at hand break combine to kill his plane, making it imperative that he command the ball down in the zone and consistently manipulate his two-seamer with little margin of error and no help from natural downhill action. That’s not necessarily a problem — nor is Turnbull particularly unique in this look — but I think it profiles better in the bullpen where he can get by on short, power stints without having to face hitters multiple times. Turnbull’s fastball/two-seam combo is good enough to see a hitter once; I’m not sure he can consistently face hitters a few times through the order with it. (Again, this comes with the caveat that Wednesday marked my first time sitting on Turnbull, so there’s no question I have more to learn about him.)
I liked his slider at times, and he threw a couple very good changeups with late, arm-side action, but both pitches are a bit more inconsistent and have some room to grow. The slider, a 10-to-4 sweeper that is perfect for his arm angle and as a complement to his two-seamer, could become a wipeout pitch for Spencer Turnbull, especially against right-handed hitters. He’s got the ability to manipulate it some, and he occasionally flashed a more power-curve-like 11-to-5 look with it too. If he can develop the changeup and prove the command and feel for it consistently at the knees, he’ll also have a pitch to get left-handed hitters out with consistency.
There’s a lot to like here for the Detroit Tigers, and the righty’s arm strength and pitch life, especially with his fastballs and slider, give him a good foundation to attack hitters. Already 25 years old, it’d be ideal if Spencer Turnbull can make a big league impact this coming season, even though the height of his experience right now is just four Double-A starts earlier this summer. Long term, again, my hunch is that he winds up in the bullpen with an outside shot for high-leverage relief innings, but I’d love to see him more before really hammering down that opinion. Hopefully, you can expect a few more Spencer Turnbull videos rom us throughout the Arizona Fall League season over the next month.