AJ Hinch's success as Detroit's manager may ultimately hinge on the performance of a few highly regarded prospects.
Of course, Hinch wouldn't want them thinking that way.
When a team is rebuilding like the Tigers are, young prospects can provide much-needed excitement for both the manager and the fans, but that also can bring extra pressure, which may not be the best thing for a player adjusting to the big leagues.
“It’s important for them to understand that when they’re on the mound or they’re in the batter’s box, it’s the game. You’ve got to play the game," Hinch said Friday. "You’re competing with the game, and not sort of this, live up to a reputation that somebody external has put on them.”
The start of spring training can be a good time for a manager to establish expectations, and Hinch is in his first season at the helm for the Tigers. Detroit has five of the game's top 25 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline. That includes infielder Spencer Torkelson, last year’s No. 1 overall draft pick.
Torkelson is third in the MLB Pipeline ranking, behind only Tampa Bay shortstop Wander Franco and Baltimore catcher Adley Rutschman.
Atlanta’s Cristian Pache has a chance to win a starting job in center field. He had only four regular-season at-bats last year as a 21-year-old, but his strong defense, speed and potential power make him the Braves’ top prospect. Pache went 4 for 22 with a homer and four RBIs in the postseason last year.
“It will be great to get him back out there and watch him again,” manager Brian Snitker said. “How he handled himself in October in that situation was really, really impressive.”