DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers selected Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 MLB draft.
Torkelson was announced as a third baseman at the MLB draft, but he played almost exclusively on the other corner of the infield in college.
Torkelson joins outfielder Riley Greene -- the teams first-round pick last season at No. 5 overall -- as the top position player prospects in the organization. They will join starting pitchers Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal as top 100 prospects in baseball.
Tigers 2020 draft picks:
- First round: Arizona State 1B Spencer Torkelson
- Second round: Ohio State C Dillon Dingler
- Competitive Balance Round B: LSU OF Daniel Cabrera
- Third round: Rice SS Trei Cruz
- Fourth round: Arizona State 3B Gage Workman
- Fifth round: High school 3B Colt Keith
Last year, the Tigers broke a streak of selecting four straight right-handed starting pitchers when they selected Greene. They took Beau Burrows in 2015, Manning in 2016, Alex Faedo in 2017 and Mize in 2018.
The Tigers still have five more picks in the shortened 2020 draft: No. 38, No. 62, No. 73, No. 102 and No. 132.
MLB’s draft, usually 40 rounds, was shortened to five rounds because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. That was obviously a blow to the Tigers, as they would have had the top selection in each round.
More about Torkelson
Torkelson was considered the No. 1 prospect in the draft by MLB.com, Baseball America, ESPN and many other outlets.
While his ceiling isn’t considered to be as high as some previous top draft picks, “Tork” is thought to be very safe, and basically a slam dunk to be at least a very solid MLB first baseman.
The 6-1, 220-pound right-hander dominated college baseball for three years, slashing .337/.463/.729 with 54 home runs, 33 doubles and more walks (110) than strikeouts (104) in 129 career games.
He was a standout in the summer Cape Cod League, posting a 1.229 OPS with nine home runs 11 doubles, 24 walks and 27 strikeouts in 30 games.
The only tool missing from Torkelson’s game is speed, and that’s not much of a concern for a power hitting first baseman. He plays solid defense and even spent some time in center field for the Sun Devils.
Torkelson was a unanimous All-American each of the last two seasons and twice played on Team USA.
Tigers future outlook
Detroit has the young pitching to contend for a playoff spot in the near future, but Al Avila desperately needed to add some power to the system. Beyond Greene and perhaps Isaac Paredes, there isn’t much to get excited about on the offensive side.
Torkelson is exactly what the Tigers needed: a middle-of-the-order bat who can hit for power and draw a walk.
He’s only 20 years old, but Torkelson projects as the kind of player who could move through the system quickly. His advanced plate discipline and consistency throughout his college career puts him ahead of most hitters his age.
That’s important because the organization’s top pitching prospects are knocking on the door of the big leagues.
It’s been a tough rebuild, as the Tigers lost 114 games last season and have had the worst record in baseball two of the last three years. But the signings this offseason -- Jonathan Schoop, C.J. Cron, Austin Romine, Ivan Nova -- suggested Avila was ready to start actually improving on the field. With the prospect depth in the minors, the Tigers could turn back into a playoff contender in the next couple of years.
Torkelson will have to be a big part of that.