What’s Next for These Notable Big Leaguers Optioned in 2024?

All five of these players have experienced MLB success at times since their initial debuts. Yet, all five are currently back in the minor leagues.

Edouard Julien of the Minnesota Twins celebrates during a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox at the Lee County Sports Complex.
FORT MYERS, FL- MARCH 01: Edouard Julien #47 of the Minnesota Twins celebrates during a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox on March 1, 2024 at the Lee County Sports Complex in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

Baseball can be a humbling game. You don’t have to tell that to these five players, though.

That’s because each has been optioned to the minor leagues at some point in 2024 despite starting the year in MLB. Some have even had tangible (and recent) success at the game’s highest level.

But, as we all know, the road to the show (and staying there once you make it) is far from easy. And even seasoned veterans like Houston Astros first baseman José Abreu can find themselves being optioned to the minors.

So, who are the five players in question, and will they be back in the majors this season? Let’s discuss.

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Reid Detmers, SP, Los Angeles Angels

Optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake on June 2

This one doesn’t make any sense.

Then again, it’s not like the Los Angeles Angels are known for their sound decision-making.

The Angels optioned Detmers, their best starting pitcher in April, to the minor leagues after a brutal month of May that resulted in a horrendous 9.49 ERA over five starts. But, as is often the case in baseball, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to baseline statistics.

For example, despite his 9.49 ERA, Detmers struck out nearly 11 batters per nine innings in May. That represented an improvement over April (when his overall numbers were better), in which he was striking out about 10 batters per nine innings. The stuff can play.

Moreover, Detmers’ 6.09 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) in May was over three runs lower than his ERA. And while that FIP is admittedly nothing to write home about, his 4.22 xFIP was much more respectable.

FIP takes into account factors that a pitcher can truly control. In other words? It’s not Detmers’ fault that the team around him is not built to win at a high level.

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Of course, the left-hander isn’t completely absolved of blame; he needed to pitch better in May. But considering how thin the Angels are in their rotation, optioning Detmers doesn’t seem like a prudent choice, no matter how badly he struggled last month.

Edouard Julien, 2B, Minnesota Twins

Optioned to Triple-A St. Paul on June 3

Julien’s rookie season with the Minnesota Twins in 2023 was a solid one: 16 home runs, a 136 wRC+, 2.8 fWAR and seventh place in American League Rookie of the Year voting.

So, what went wrong in 2024?

The sophomore slump isn’t a new concept, but it sure seems to have affected Julien, who was recently optioned to Triple-A after the Twins activated Royce Lewis from the injured list.

Julien’s 2024 hadn’t been particularly good, with a 99 wRC+ and seven home runs in 194 plate appearances thus far. Essentially, he’s been league-average. And while that may be a drop-off from his above-average rookie season, it’s probably not enough to justify a minor league assignment. But that’s what Minnesota decided on.

It’s understandable that the Twins would want to make room for Royce Lewis, a phenomenal talent when healthy. But did it have to come at Julien’s expense?

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The best way to develop young players is to let them experience the trials and tribulations of a big league career. Furthermore, Julien was playing second base every day for Minnesota prior to his demotion. Who will fill that hole in his absence?

Alex Lange, RP, Detroit Tigers

Optioned to Triple-A Toledo on May 23

In some cases, a minor league option is merited, like in the case of Detroit Tigers’ reliever Alex Lange.

Lange was sent down to Triple-A Toledo in May after melting down in a loss to the Kansas City Royals that had been a culmination of ongoing control issues.

The 28-year-old, who has served as the Tigers closer in recent stints, has never been a pinpoint strike-thrower. To that end, Lange saw his MLB walk rate climb to nearly 19% in 2024, his highest percentage to date. He simply has to demonstrate better command of his offerings to re-establish himself as a reliable late-inning relief option.

As a side note, arguing with your manager isn’t going to earn you any brownie points in your journey back to MLB, either.

Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Detroit Tigers

Optioned to Triple-A Toledo on June 3

Much like Julien, himself a former top prospect, Spencer Torkelson’s career arc has not unfolded the way the Detroit Tigers had surely hoped.

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Since making his debut in 2022, the former No. 1 overall pick has a career -0.3 fWAR, 91 wRC+ and 43 home runs, with 31 of those coming last season, his best campaign so far.

Many thought Torkelson was ready to break out after finally flashing some of his promise in that aforementioned 2023 season. Unfortunately, sustained success remains elusive for “Tork” in 2024 (he has a meager 71 wRC+ and -0.7 fWAR, along with just four home runs). That means another stint in Triple-A to attempt to recapture some of last year’s magic.

But don’t lose all faith in Torkelson just yet. As our own Clay Snowden recently wrote about the Tigers’ slumping first baseman:

“This is not the end of the road but more of a roadblock. A wake-up call, a get-right opportunity, and a reminder of how brutal and difficult this game truly is. How Torkelson responds and his willingness to have the right mentality will dictate if he’s a Tiger for years to come.”

Clay Snowden, Just Baseball

Erik Swanson, RP, Toronto Blue Jays

Optioned to Triple-A Buffalo on May 28

It’s been a tough go for Swanson in 2024, who was an elite setup man in the Toronto Blue Jays’ bullpen as recently as last season.

After starting the year on the injured list, the 30-year-old simply hasn’t recaptured the dominant form that made him the return for outfielder/designated hitter Teoscar Hernández in a trade between the Blue Jays and the Seattle Mariners prior to the 2023 season.

However, there’s more than just a rebound at stake for the Blue Jays and Swanson here: If the latter is unable to earn his way back to Toronto, he may end up falling short of a service time threshold that would allow him to reach free agency at the end of 2025. That means the Blue Jays would be eligible to retain Swanson until after the 2026 season. That’s not insignificant, especially given the dynamic we so often see at play between organizations and their prospects.

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Ultimately, it would serve both sides’ best interests to have Swanson find his groove and begin chipping away at an unsightly 9.22 ERA and 7.30 FIP so far this season. Nevertheless, there’s some added intrigue in this case.

Stats as of June 6. This piece was written before Cincinnati Reds starter Graham Ashcraft was optioned to Triple-A.