Major League Baseball kicked off its 2020 draft on Wednesday. For the second time in three years, the Detroit Tigers had the first overall pick, and this time they used it on Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson. A righty-swinging slugger, Torkelson has been widely regarded as the class’ best hitter.
Heading into the summer, CBS Sports ranked Torkelson as the No. 2 prospect in the draft.
Torkelson becomes the best hitting prospect in the pitching-heavy Tigers system, dethroning outfielder Riley Greene, the No. 5 pick in last year’s draft. Over the winter, CBS Sports ranked Casey Mize (2018’s No. 1 pick) and Matt Manning as the two best prospects in the organization. Greene checked in at third, with left-hander Tarik Skubal and infielder Isaac Paredes rounding out the top five.
CBS Sports interviewed Torkelson’s hitting coach at Arizona State, Michael Earley, earlier this month, and he expressed belief in Torkelson’s capacity to make a quick transition to the majors.
“I think he’d have no problem if you dropped him in there right now,” Earley said. “I hate to put that kind of pressure on him, he has enough pressure on him. But I’ve seen it. I was fortunate enough to play in the minor leagues against some really, really good players — guys who are big-league All-Stars now — and I put this kid up there with him, and I would take him over anyone, all day. I think he’s that special.”
A first baseman had not been selected No. 1 since 2000, when the Miami Marlins popped Adrian Gonzalez. Meanwhile, a collegiate first baseman had never been selected higher than second, which is where both Will Clark and Travis Lee were selected. That changed Wednesday night.
Torkelson also became the first player from Arizona State chosen in the top five since Antoine Williamson was chosen fourth overall in 1994. The Sun Devils have nonetheless produced four players who accumulated more than 50 victories Above Replacement during their big-league careers: Barry Bonds, Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, and Dustin Pedroia.