After being selected by the Detroit Tigers in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft out of the University of Alabama, right-handed pitcher Spencer Turnbull finally reached Double-A Erie in 2017 after spending large parts of the last several summers on the disabled list at several minor league levels. The hard-throwing, well-built (6’3″, 215 lb.) starting pitcher is already 25 years old (DOB: September 18, 1992), and those disabled list stints have cut considerably into his big league window. Nevertheless, Turnbull has a lively arsenal and some ability to miss bats that could make him an attractive big league option over the next year or two in Detroit.
This summer, Spencer Turnbull made 15 starts with High-A Lakeland and finished 7-3 with a 3.05 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 82.2 innings pitched before being bumped to Erie for four starts near the end of the year. Another disabled list stint this year pushed the Detroit Tigers to send Turnbull to the Mesa Solar Sox at the Arizona Fall League over the last six weeks. That’s where Baseball Census saw him make four starts this fall; below you’ll find game video from three of those starts, plus our full Spencer Turnbull scouting report that includes velocities, pitch notes, tendencies, and future projections.
Spencer Turnbull, Detroit Tigers — 2017 Scouting Report
Dates observed in 2017: Arizona Fall League
Spencer Turnbull Scouting Report — Detroit Tigers — 2017 Game Video
Spencer Turnbull Scouting Report — Notes & Analysis
Spencer Turnbull is an interesting pitcher. The life on his stuff is off the charts, and even though there’s considerable inconsistency in both command and execution in his entire arsenal — thanks to mechanical and release point issues, among other things — the Detroit Tigers prospect has a knack for flashing well above-average stuff now and again. This afternoon, the Tigers reportedly added Turnbull to their 40-man roster to protect him from next month’s Rule 5 Draft, which is something of a surprise to me; even though he’ll flash big league stuff at times, he’s far too inconsistent to make an impact in Detroit soon, and a serious track record of injury makes me question his rotation future.
Ultimately, though, Spencer Turnbull has such lively stuff and is at a make-or-break point in his career coming off a fairly successful run in the AFL that it was likely now or never for the Tigers. I’m pretty skeptical that there’s considerable big league value here, but the righty flashes more than enough power and natural pitch life that he’s worth a shot to see if mechanical improvements can help his command profile while maintaining enough pitch life to miss barrels at the highest level. Perhaps the Detroit Tigers believe the Alabama product turned a corner in Mesa this fall, and his arsenal will ultimately prove itself against the best hitters in baseball.
Spencer Turnbull Scouting Report — Future Projection
For me, Spencer Turnbull is nearly certain to be a future middle/late-inning reliever with the arsenal and ability to work multiple innings as a swingman. Shorter stints and more consistent channeling of his ample high-energy profile and in-game adrenaline should allow the righty’s stuff to play up considerably; perhaps those shorter stints may also allow him to find a more consistent mechanical look to improve command. That said, the Detroit Tigers may well still see him as a starter, and he could be a rotation member at Double-A Erie or Triple-A Toledo to begin 2018. Health will forever be a question mark, and Turnbull must finally prove he can stay on the mound every fifth day for a full season, in addition to improving some of the command issues I saw this fall. Long term, the 40-man roster move clearly suggests the Detroit Tigers see Spencer Turnbull as a future contributor regardless of role, and assuming good health, there’s a shot he’ll find himself in Detroit at some point in 2018.
Overall Future Potential (Future Value): Outside shot to remain in rotation role, eventually working as a back-end starter thanks to lively, powerful stuff; power arsenal and poor command profile suggest to me he’s more likely to transition into mid- and late-inning relief work (47.5/50)
MLB ETA: 2018
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