Tigers draft watch: Arizona State's Spencer Torkelson remains strong front-runner

View | 21 Photos
Lynn Henning | The Detroit News | 12:27 pm EST March 4, 2020

This is the fourth in a series of updates on players the Tigers could select with the No. 1 overall pick in June’s MLB Draft.

Baseball’s college-prep landscape ahead of June’s draft is a bit like a presidential primary. 

It takes a while for a true front-runner to gain the scouts’ delegate votes that establish a top-of-the-ticket player. 

Spencer Torkelson, a 20-year-old first baseman, on Wednesday was batting .361 through 13 games, with a 1.579 OPS, six homers, three doubles, and 26 walks.
Rick Scuteri, Associated Press

Arizona State basher Spencer Torkelson is the clear nominee, even when three months until the June 10 draft is a long time for ailments or mysterious slumps or some disqualifier to emerge. 

The Tigers aren’t saying who they most love with 95 days to go. Nor, in line with past drafts, will they make anything official until draft night. But neither are they saying anything discouraging about Torkelson, who Tuesday night blasted a home run so far it left Cal-State Fullerton’s stadium.  

Torkelson, a 20-year-old first baseman, on Wednesday was batting .361 through 13 games, with a 1.579 OPS, six homers, three doubles, and a ridiculous 26 walks. He had struck out 12 times. 

He is so athletic that the Tigers, should they opt for him as expected, aren’t necessarily keen on moving him from first base. Defense counts there — and Torkelson handles duties at first with grace. 

Elsewhere, the Top 10 was subject to some re-shuffling last weekend. It lines up today accordingly:  

► 1. Spencer Torkelson, Arizona State, 6-foot-1, 220, 1B: The NCAA record for walks in a season belongs to Coby Kerlin, from the University of Texas, who had 112 in 1985. But those came in 76 games. Torkelson could have 100 in what should be more like a 50-game season for the Sun Devils. Already, in 13 games, he has 26 freebies. Torkelson’s 1.579 OPS comes courtesy of whopping slugging (.944) and on-base (.635) percentages. Last week’s rank:

2. Asa Lacy, LH, Texas A&M, 6-4, 215, LH starter: He’s up to 98 with his fastball, which primarily is how, in 17 innings, Lacy has 33 strikeouts against six walks and nine hits. He has a vicious slider, change-up, and curveball as backups. In terms of big-league weaponry, Lacy right now is the most dominating college pitcher in America. Last week:

3. Nick Gonzales, New Mexico State, 5-10, 190, 2B: Indisputably, Gonzales has been doing this against the likes of Texas Southern, Iona, and Purdue Fort Wayne, with one game against Arizona State mixed in. But if this were a matter of dismantling lesser pitching, lots of big-league prospects, playing at levels less than the SEC, would be gouging the ball in ways nearly as unfathomable as Gonzales has been chopping into everything thrown his way in 13 games. Brace yourself: .500 batting average, 12 home runs, 2.006 OPS, compliments of a 1.354 slugging percentage, and .652 on-base rate. He was expected to have a monster season. He is having a combined King Kong-Godzilla season. Last week:

More: Tigers draft watch: Nick Gonzales debuts with four-homer weekend

4. Austin Martin, Vanderbilt, 6-foot, 170, 3B: Martin is going to set fires with his bat throughout what should be a steady stream of All-Star seasons. Whether there is enough muscle in his stroke, or enough pizzazz on defense, loom as legitimate questions. He yet is capable of swinging that first-overall trophy. But it’s more likely Martin will be a top-five pick. He’s now playing center field, with no particular distinction, after being moved from the infield. Last week:

5. Emerson Hancock, University of Georgia, 6-4, 213, RH starter: Hancock’s best pitch, a fastball that soars into the higher 90s, is still on display. But unless he shows scouts a sharper breaking ball than thus far has been unleashed, Hancock will have a serious issue with big-league clubs that demand a better second pitch. He had early-season status as a pitcher who belonged pretty much in the same conversation as Torkelson and Martin, two of the three most prominent musketeers mentioned as likely No. 1 overall material. But at least temporarily, Hancock’s lagging. Last week:

More: Tigers draft watch: Georgia ace Emerson Hancock returns to form

6. Jared Kelley, Refugio (Texas) High, 6-2, 200, RH starter: Refugio’s schedule finally moves into gear next week, at which time Kelley will begin unveiling his imposing bagful of skills and physique. Teams that typically don’t fall in love with prep pitchers could be tempted to see Kelley as different stock indeed. Last week: 6. 

7. Nick Bitsko, Central Bucks East High, Doylestown, Pa., 6-4, 220, RH starter: As with most high schools, nothing much happens on any prep schedule until mid-March. So it goes for Central Bucks, which only hopes snow has subsided when Bitsko begins work next week. Bitsko is only 17, but he’s draft-eligible in June. It’s possible he’ll decide to opt for his University of Virginia scholarship. It’s more probable that first-round cash — a lot of it, based on when he’s likely to be grabbed — will induce him to go pro. Last week: 7. 

8. Austin Hendrick, West Allegheny High, Oakdale, Pa., 6-1, 205, OF: He could pitch in college, or stick in the outfield. He will hit, anywhere, once he decides whether pro ball or a few college years are his better bet in 2020. He bats left-handed, has thunder in his swing, and has a left arm that will make him a deadly right-fielder. Last week: 8. 

► 9. Carmen Mlodzinski, University of South Carolina, 6-2, 231, RH starter: Had a rough night at the factory last Friday night against Clemson, getting socked for 10 hits and six runs in six innings. He also whiffed eight and walked one. These are the evenings that can, and will, come any pitcher’s way. But it would behoove Mlodzinski to put the Clemson game in his pocket and return to less turbulent life. Last week: 10.  

► 10. Garrett Crochet, University of Tennessee, 6-6, 218, LH starter: Still hasn’t pitched in 2020. And while Tennessee’s staff insists it’s a short-term shelving, the layoff isn’t helping Crochet’s stock. Still three months until the draft, and with the kilowatts his 6-foot-6 powerhouse generates, he has every chance to reunite with Crochet’s early 2020 luster. Last week: 6.   

► Others to watch: Mick Abel, RH starter, Jesuit High, Portland, Ore; Reid Detmers, University of Louisville, LH starter; J.T. Ginn, Mississippi State, RH starter; Robert Hassell III, Independence High, Franklin, Tenn., OF; Ed Howard, Mount Carmel High, Lynwood, Ill., shortstop; Casey Martin, University of Arkansas, shortstop; Garrett Mitchell, UCLA, outfielder; Tyler Soderstrom, Turlock (Calif.) High, catcher; Zac Veen, Spruce Creek High, Port Orange, Fla., outfielder.  

Originally Published 12:26 pm EST March 4, 2020
Updated 12:27 pm EST March 4, 2020
Subscribe Now – Get Your Offer