Stearns: The Tigers got it right with the selection of Spencer Torkelson


Nathan Stearns, Sports Editorial Assistant

DETROIT– Tigers general manager Al Avila hit a home run with the No.1 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft.

Yes, I am aware that this sentiment reeks of being a “dad joke,” but the underlying sentiment is true — the Tigers picked the perfect player with the first overall pick.

For a team that has traded away multiple all-stars over the past five years (Justin Verlander, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, J.D. Martinez, David Price), the bulk of talent in Detroit’s farm system has been derived from the draft. In fact, according to, the four highest-rated Detroit prospects are all former draft picks. One must wait until Isaac Paredes — who pops up at No. 5 on the rankings list — to see a talented young contributor who was acquired in a previous trade.

As of Wednesday, the chances are that this trend will continue. While the selection of Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson was hardly a surprise to anyone, it was a much-needed jolt for a farm system that is severely lacking in talented hitters.

It is no secret that the Tigers are loaded with quality pitching arms. After all, Detroit has three pitchers who are all included inside the MLB’s annual top-100 prospects list — Casey Mize, Matt Manning, and Tarik Skubal. All three of these young hurlers finished the 2019 season with a sub-3.5 ERA with the Erie SeaWolves.

Avila has earned intense criticism for the lack of development surrounding former top prospects Daz Cameron, Jake Rodgers and others. After dumping off so many elite players over the last several years to replenish a gutted farm system, one would think that the Tigers would have a few more top-notch hitting prospects.

However, thanks to Avila’s recent drafting, Detroit now has two promising young bats to build around. The rapid ascension of 2019 draft pick Riley Greene, along with Torkelson, will be key in ensuring that the Tigers’ rebuild goes according to plan.

Avila deserves kudos for poaching Torkelson. While considered a “safe pick” by many, Torkelson’s body of work speaks for itself. The former Sun Devil belted 25 home runs in his freshman season, which not only led the nation, but also broke Barry Bonds’ school record for the most home runs ever by a freshman at ASU. All in all, the Sun Devil slugger clubbed 54 homers in only 498 total at-bats in college.

It isn’t just the massive raw power that Torkelson possesses that makes him such an attractive prospect. His exceptional ability to get on base with regularity (.337 career batting average in college) speaks to his maturity and otherworldly skill set. It isn’t every day that you find yourself in the fortuitous position of having the opportunity to pick someone with such a unique skill set.

While more firepower and young talent are still needed in the Tigers’ farm system, the recent addition of Torkelson is an excellent start. He and Greene could potentially create the next feared middle-of-the-order combo for Detroit. If all goes well for Detroit, Torkelson and Greene, combined with Mize, Manning and Skubal, could help lift the Tigers’ to contending status sooner rather than later.