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

TOOL (FV)
NOTES & COMMENTS
Four-Seam Fastball (60)
Several different looks to the pitch with natural ability to rear back and flash upper 90s on occasion. Variable movement; will cut some when thrown to glove side, and then show modest flat run when left to arm-side. Command isn’t where it needs to be; inconsistent release and execution. Will show pitch early in game and early in counts before transitioning to two-seamer late, especially to LHH. Velocity: 93-95, T 97.

Two-Seam Fastball (60)
Very late and hard run with downward fade to arm-side; good depth to miss barrels and get ground balls. Ability to manipulate release of pitch to effect spin and sink; effective getting LHH to roll over away, and tie up RHH down and in with enough velocity to give some margin of error. Flattens out with run but no sink when overthrown. Command inconsistent but control good enough when set low-middle and allowed to run free; however, pitch will occasionally get completely away arm-side, especially when his trunk gets too rotational, causing throwing arm to lag behind body and elbow to drop. Velocity: 90-93, T 94.

Slider (45)
Two different looks to his slider; both 10-to-4 with good depth, but one is significantly harder and tighter in higher velocity band (80-81) than the other, slower one (76-78) used as a get-over pitch early in counts. Inconsistent feel for the pitch; well over-manipulate and fall off hard to first base, pulling slider with him and burying it glove-side. At other times, will cast pitch and get under/around it at release, causing it to back up and lose life while staying arm-side and hittable. Truthfully, this is a tough pitch to grade out: best sliders are well above-average; worst are well below. Inconsistency in command and execution ultimately leaves slider below-average for me right now. Velocity: 76-80, T 81.

Changeup (45)
Good extension out in front, though will occasionally drop elbow and push pitch to the plate, sacrificing depth and downward movement. At its best, pitch tumbles with arm-side movement at plate, sold well by quick arm action and good follow-through. At its worst, pitch is thrown too hard with little speed differential and no late tumble at plate, turning it into a BP fastball. Used less frequently than slider; most typically seen arm-side against LHH, where it can be effective. If execution improves, could become average offering as a third look to draw weak contact. Velocity: 80-84, T 85.

Control/Command (45/40)
Surprised to see his season (2.8 BB/9) and career (3.5 BB/9) walk rates considering views at AFL; struggled to consistently hit the mitt with entire arsenal and missed badly quite a bit considering his current rotation role. Too many non-competive misses; lack of consistent execution on off-speed pitches; too much wild arm-side life on fastballs, especially two-seamer, to satisfactorily manipulate and corral within the zone. Outside shot to potentially survive as effectively wild, but significant inconsistency points to a bullpen move as most reasonable future role.

Mechanics
Drop and drive with a low three-quarters release. Good natural height but lacks considerable downward plane considering his hand position at release. Gets overly horizontal in rotation to the plate, which also affects plane as well as consistency in release point and command. Considerable back shoulder drop as he drives to the plate; fairly long arm action through to finish. Two variable looks from the stretch; cluster of quick times to the plate 1.37-1.41 with runner on first; uses longer hold and slower delivery, too, occasionally registering 1.58-1.64 to the plate with runner on first. Not surprisingly, command noticeably better down in the zone on his slower move to home.

Intangibles
Emotional and intense on the mound; wears emotions on sleeve and will outwardly react to pitch calls and plays in field that then noticeably affect his demeanor for some time after; can sulk. Intense competitor who gives a very high-effort look, especially for a starter. Very specific between-inning and pre-inning routines; creature of habit seeking consistency more so than most. All that combined with high-adrenaline look and max-effort in some game situations might suggest a better future home in high-leverage bullpen situations.




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 detroit tigers baseball 2




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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