The No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft on Wednesday, Arizona State’s Spencer Torkelson, gave a few guesses as to why he wasn’t drafted out of high school. He may not have been as polished. Northern California might not get as much attention for high school players.
Alan Trammell, now a special assistant to the Detroit Tigers’ general manager, said Torkelson wasn’t as physically or mentally mature back then as he is now. Either way, it worked out for Torkelson as the Tigers took him first.
“It’s so hard to put words to the feeling of where I was and where I am now,” Torkelson told media in a zoom call on Thursday. “But you’ve got to just thank everyone around me that had my back and always believed in me like my parents, my friends, teammates, coaches, hometown. Everyone knew I had it in me. So I think getting undrafted out of high school was the best thing to ever happen to me and made me work so much harder. It put everything into perspective for me, and being where I am now, it’s really special.”
Just a few years ago, the 40-round MLB Draft didn’t have room for Torkelson. In the past year, his name gained buzz as the potential first overall pick in a draft that was shortened to only five rounds because of the coronavirus pandemic. Torkelson didn’t know for sure that he’d be the first pick until he heard commissioner Rob Manfred say his name on television. He also didn’t know Detroit would label him a third baseman until Manfred said it.
“I’ve always believed in my ability,” Torkelson said. “I’ve thought I was the best player in the draft. I’ve worked my butt off to get to this point, so I was confident. But we’ve had conversations. The draft is crazy. Everyone says it’s so unpredictable so you never know. So you’re going to have some doubt. [Detroit] didn’t call me before the pick. That scared the living crap out of me. But it was clearly the best feeling ever. I can’t even describe it.”
Torkelson became the fourth Sun Devil to be drafted first overall. ASU’s four first overall picks is the most by any NCAA school. Alika Williams, a shortstop from ASU, was the final pick of Wednesday’s selections, going 37th overall to Tampa Bay.
“It’s unbelievable to be in the same conversation as those amazing players and their careers,” Torkelson said of the other first picks from ASU. “It’s special. And you’ve got to realize it’s just the start. They’ve done more than me. I might have gone first overall but they went on to be successful and that’s my mission.”
Torkelson and his friends — including last year’s fifth overall pick from ASU, Hunter Bishop — were at his house for the draft on Wednesday night. Torkelson celebrated with friends for his own selection and for that of Williams’. And his phone hasn’t stopped blowing up since his name was called. Pete Alonso, last year’s NL Rookie of the Year for the Mets, sent Torkelson a DM to say congratulations.
Even renowned chef Guy Fieri, whose company’s CFO is Torkelson’s mother, offered congrats.
“He cooks a mean brisket — I promise you, it’s unreal,” Torkelson said. “But yeah, he’s such a good dude and to have him on my side, it’s special.”