The Detroit Tigers know Spencer Torkelson can play first base. If all else fails, that remains an option.
In the meantime, he’s Detroit’s third base prospect selected first overall in the MLB Draft on Wednesday. A first baseman and outfielder in college at Arizona State, Torkelson didn’t know for sure that he was going first overall or that he’d be picked as a third baseman when commissioner Rob Manfred announced the pick on live television.
Still, Torkelson wasn’t as surprised as some; he’s played there in fall ball for the Sun Devils.
“I’ve been on the left side of the diamond,” Torkelson said. “I’m sure you watch MLB Network or ESPN, they have the 12-year-old highlights at shortstop, it wasn’t too pretty. But I’ve been over there. That was just as a 12-year-old so don’t blame me. But yeah, I’m comfortable over there.”
Alan Trammell, a special assistant to Tigers GM Al Avila, said the Tigers picking Torkelson as a third baseman was a compliment to him.
“First of all, it’s the athleticism,” Trammell said. “And I think that tells you that saying, ‘Spencer Torkelson, third base,’ that’s a compliment to Spencer. If it doesn’t work out, you know he can play first. But he can help the organization if he can. So we’re definitely going to give it a shot.
“This is a good-looking kid. I love the drive. A kid that wasn’t drafted [out of high school]. He wasn’t physically and mentally mature at that point. But in three years, just listen to the way he answers the questions, this is a nice addition to the Tigers organization.”
The Tigers’ director of amateur scouting, Scott Pleis, told media Thursday that he took Trammell out to look at Torkelson at ASU.
“We saw Tork and about five minutes into it, [Trammell] goes, ‘I really like this guy,’” Pleis said. “‘Yeah, me too.’”
“I’ve seen him take ground balls over [at third], I’ve seen him take fly balls in center field. I’ve seen him do a lot of things. Obviously at first base, also. So the actions are there. the ability is there. The tools are there. and I’m certainly not worried about game speed for Tork as far as doing it in-game. And you can see how he handles himself, I’m sure he’s not real worried about it either. I haven’t seen him play a game at third, but seeing his ability and how he handles himself, how he moves, the athleticism, I have no issues other than just getting reps.”
Torkelson’s most-advertised trait is his bat. His home run total in college was well on-pace to be a school record for ASU before the coronavirus paused the season. He finished his three-year NCAA career with a .337 average, 54 home runs, 130 RBIs and 33 doubles in 129 games played. He had more walks (110) than strikeouts (104).
“He has good recognition,” Trammell said. “He sees the ball out of the pitcher’s hand. Scott alluded to his base, and it’s a shorter swing. Often times, power guys are trying to crank and create. He doesn’t do that. And so that leads us to believe it’s going to be a little easier transition into professional baseball.
“He has a little bit of a lift in his swing that the power guys have that when he hits it, it’s gone. Some of the guys that we’ve seen over the years, they hit a long fly ball and you’re looking up, you’re looking up, and the next thing you know, its 10, 15 rows back in the stands. It’s going to play in Comerica Park, too. It’s one of the bigger ballparks in baseball. But no ballpark is going to hold Tork.”