2020 MLB Draft Scouting Report: 3B/1B Spencer Torkelson, Detroit Tigers

Tim Kelly
June 10, 2020 - 7:14 pm

From Harry Heilmann to Hank Greenberg to Miguel Cabrera, the Detroit Tigers have a rich history of employing superstar first baseman. They hope that Spencer Torkelson is the next name to join that illustrious list. (Although they announced him as a third baseman, so who knows.)

Wednesday, the Tigers made Torkelson the No. 1 pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. He'll head to an organization that has fallen on hard times in recent seasons.

Between 2006 and 2016, the Tigers posted eight winning seasons, and won two American League pennants. However, 2019 was Detroit's third consecutive losing season, as the team went just 47-114, marking the second worst season in team history.

How did the Tigers get here? They allowed Max Scherzer to leave in free agency after the 2014 season. Future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander was traded to the Houston Astros in August of 2017, and though it seemed smart to unload his contract at the time, he's since found the fountain of youth with the Astros. Meanwhile, the Tigers are hamstrung by a mix of bad contracts (the aforementioned Cabrera and Jordan Zimmerman are the most noteworthy), and the fact that they didn't continue to churn out young talent during their 11-year period of success.

Truthfully, there's likely a few more lean years in Detroit ahead, especially as the Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox all field teams that are expected to contend for the postseason. The hope, though, is that Torkelson will be a key part of a baseball renaissance in Detroit by the mid-2020s.

Here's everything you need to know about the No. 1 overall pick:

Measurables: 6-1, 220 pounds

High School: Casa Grande High School (CA)

College: Arizona State

Freshman Year Statistics: .320/.440/.743 with 25 home runs, 53 RBIs, 38 walks and a 1.182 OPS (257 plate appearances across 55 games)

Sophomore Year Statistics: .351/.446/.707 with 23 home runs, 66 RBis, 41 walks and a 1.153 OPS (289 plate appearances across 57 games)

Junior Year Statistics (Season Cut Short by COVID-19): .340/.598/.780 with six home runs, 11 RBIs, 31 walks and a 1.378 OPS (82 plate appearances across 17 games)

Strengths: MLB Pipeline says that Torkelson "doesn't sell out for power, but gets it with ease." Baseball America says calls the former Sun Devil "an above-average defender at first base," with both that report and one from Keith Law suggesting that he probably could be serviceable in left field at the major league level if need be. With a DH in the American League, it seems unlikely that the Tigers will ask Torkelson to play a defensive position other than first base, though it's not a bad tool to have in the chest. Certainly, the Tigers benefited from Miguel Cabrera's ability to play third base when they also employed Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez.

Weaknesses: Torkelson hit .337 in his collegiate career, but it remains to be seen just how good of an overall hitter he'll be at the big-league level. Baseball America says that he has a tendency to be "too much out on the front side," with Law adding that scouts are torn on whether Torkelson is a professional hitter with elite power or an elite power hitter that will also hit for some contact. Still, as Law notes, his floor as an offensive player still seems pretty high.

Where Does the Tigers’ Farm System Stand Now?

Though their major-league team remains largely devoid of impact talents, help is on the way. MLB Pipeline ranked the Tigers' farm system as the fifth-best in the sport earlier this year. LHP Casey Mize, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, is the No. 7 overall prospect in the sport. Three other prospects - RHP Matt Manning, outfielder Riley Greene, LHP Tarik Skubal - appear in MLB Pipeline's top 50. Torkelson is likely to join them in 2021, and the Tigers figure to have top-five picks for a couple more years. Losing is brutal, but it offers a path to building a World Series contender if you hit on your draft picks.

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