Spencer Torkelson Has a Powerful Swing That Could Get Him to the Majors Quickly

Ryan Phillips
Spencer Torkelson, Arizona State
Spencer Torkelson, Arizona State /
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Spencer Torkelson was selected by the Detroit Tigers with the top pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. The Arizona State first baseman (who was announced as a third baseman) has an odd profile for a guy at the top of the draft, given that he isn't a pitcher and doesn't play a premium defensive position. But Torkelson is such an offensive presence that he was the obvious pick for the Tigers at No. 1.

An undrafted high schooler, Torkelson didn't have much of a profile when he enrolled at Arizona State. That changed during his freshman year when he mashed 25 home runs to lead Division I. He added a .320 batting average, 53 RBI and an OPS of 1.182. Then further cemented his status as one to watch by hitting seven home runs in the Cape Cod League at 18 years old.

Torkelson continued his assault on collegiate pitching as a sophomore, smacking 23 home runs, driving in 66 runs, improving his average to .351 and posting an OPS of 1.153.

At 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, Torkelson isn't as imposing as some other projectable hitters. He has a smooth, compact swing from the right side that generates tremendous power and exit velocity, particularly to the pull-side. He keeps both hands on the bat to his finish and can spray balls all over the diamond. He recognizes pitches well and walks a good amount. Torkelson has shown a willingness to take counts deep to find a good pitch to drive. For his college career he walked 110 times compared to 104 strikeouts. He has a mature approach that leads to better pitches coming his way.

No, Torkelson doesn't play a premium position and that does pull back on his value some. He's a decent athlete, has become a solid defender at first base as a right-hander and may have more room to improve. While the Tigers announced him as a third baseman, I'm skeptical he'll stick there long term. In a pinch he could handle the outfield, almost certainly in left. But I think it's pretty likely he'll wind up at first in the long run.

There is virtually no risk of Torkelson being a complete bust. He's too good at the plate to worry much about his future development there. He has All-Star upside and at worst he'll wind up as a middle of the lineup guy who hits for power without much of a batting average.

The 2020 draft process has been the strangest in memory due to the coronavirus pandemic. It's fitting then that we'd have an odd selection at No. 1. Torkelson is likely to be the first first baseman taken first since the Marlins selected a smooth swinging high schooler named Adrian Gonzalez back in 2001. That pick worked out pretty well.

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