DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers have the No. 1 pick in Wednesday’s MLB draft, and Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson is considered the most likely selection.
Last year, the Tigers broke a streak of selecting four straight right-handed starting pitchers with their first pick. They took Beau Burrows in 2015, Matt Manning in 2016, Alex Faedo in 2017 and Casey Mize in 2018.
Mize is currently the top prospect in the organization, followed by Manning.
Outfielder Riley Greene went to Detroit at No. 5 last season, and is the team’s top hitting prospect. Torkelson would likely take over that spot.
Torkelson is the No. 1 prospect in the draft according to MLB.com, Baseball America, ESPN and many other outlets. While his ceiling isn’t considered to be as high as some previous top 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 a requirement for a power hitting first baseman. He plays solid defense and even spent some time in center field for the Sun Devils.
Torkelson has been a unanimous All-American each of the last two seasons and twice played on Team USA.
Detroit has the young pitching to contend for a playoff spot in the near future, but Al Avila desperately needs 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 need: 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. 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 soon turn back into a playoff contender.
Torkelson would have to be a big part of that.
Detroit could also decide to go with Vanderbilt infielder Austin Martin or Texas A&M lefty starter Asa Lacey with the top pick.
Martin is considered an all-around stud offensively, though he doesn’t have as much power as Torkelson. Teams are reportedly unsure if he can stick at shortstop, though, because he was primarily a third baseman for the Commodores.
Lacey is the top pitching prospect in the draft and would join an embarrassment of riches in the Tigers’ system. But they’re expected to take a bat at No. 1, especially since there are elite hitters available.