The Detroit Tigers selected Arizona State slugger Spencer Torkelson with the No. 1 pick Wednesday night in the Major League Baseball amateur draft.
The baseball-bashing Torkelson played first base in college, but was announced as a third baseman by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.
Detroit plans to move Torkelson to the hot corner from first base, where he played in college. “It shows the amount of respect they have for me as an athlete,” a smiling Torkelson said in an interview during MLB Network’s broadcast. “I’ll take it and run with it. I like to label myself as a baseball player, and you give me a bat, a ball and a glove, and you know what? I’m just going to want to win.”
After having the majors’ worst record last season, Detroit opened the draft for the second time in three years.
The Tigers took Auburn righthander Casey Mize in 2018, and now they’ve got a powerful bat that could anchor their lineup for years to come to go along with an arm they hope is a future ace.
This year’s draft was originally scheduled to be held for the first time in Omaha, Nebraska, as a lead-in to the College World Series. Instead, the coronavirus pandemic caused baseball to make some drastic changes, including holding the draft as a remote event — much like the NFL did in April — and shortening it from three days with 40 rounds to just two days and five rounds.
Manfred announced the first-round selections, as he has done since taking over for Bud Selig in 2015. Manfred also addressed racial injustice and the recent protests that have taken place all around the country and the world.
All 30 team representatives, operating remotely, held up signs at the beginning of the broadcast that read: “Black Lives Matter. United For Change.”
The shortened college and high school baseball seasons presented unique challenges for big league scouting departments, which had to rely more on videos of players instead of attending games to help with their evaluations. Despite all that, the 20-year-old Torkelson had long been linked to the Tigers with the top pick.
With power to all fields and a great eye at the plate, Torkelson established himself as college baseball’s top slugger after going undrafted out of high school. He hit 54 home runs at Arizona State, finishing two shy of Bob Horner’s school record — a mark Torkelson would have likely obliterated if his college season hadn’t been canceled after just 17 games because of the pandemic. The Petaluma, California, native hit .340 with six homers and 11 RBIs this year.
Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad went No. 2 overall to Baltimore. The powerful, left-handed hitting Kjerstad was considered arguably the best all-around college outfielder in the draft. Minnesota ace right-hander Max Meyer went third to Miami. He was a two-way star in college and a closer before moving into the Gophers’ rotation as a sophomore. Texas A&M fireballing lefty Asa Lacy was the No. 4 pick by Kansas City. Lacy surpassed pitcher Jeff Granger (No. 5 by the Royals in 1993) as the highest-drafted player in school history. Rounding out the top 5 picks was Vanderbilt infielder Austin Martin, who was taken by Toronto as a shortstop after he played third base this season and last..