Tigers draft Torkelson first overall, move him to 3B

The Detroit Tigers announced a position change while making the first overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft, selecting Arizona State junior Spencer Torkelson as a third baseman on Wednesday.

Torkelson was almost exclusively a first baseman for the Sun Devils this year, splitting one game between first base and the outfield.

The Tigers have Miguel Cabrera under contract for four more years at a total of $124 million guaranteed, but the veteran first baseman is likely to see most of his time at designated hitter this year. C.J. Cron is expected to man first base for Detroit this season after arriving as a free agent in December.

Regarding the position switch, Torkelson said on ESPN, “It’s not a shock to me. I pride myself as (being) a baseball player, and a baseball player isn’t stuck at one position. ... I pride myself on winning and getting the job done. If that’s at third base, then that’s what it is. I’ll do my best over there and make it happen.”

The most recent time a third baseman was selected No. 1 overall was 1992, when the Houston Astros selected Cal State Fullerton’s Phil Nevin first.

The only first basemen who topped the draft were Ron Blomberg (1967) and Adrian Gonzalez (2000), both left-handed hitters. Torkelson is a right-handed hitter.

Torkelson, 20, had a .340 average, six homers and 11 RBIs in 17 games during the 2020 season, which was abbreviated due to the coronavirus pandemic. He didn’t play at third base in 2020.

In three college seasons overall, he produced a .337 batting average, a .463 on-base percentage, a .729 slugging percentage, 54 homers and 130 RBIs in 129 games.

Torkelson said on ESPN of his reaction to being drafted No. 1 overall, “Oh my goodness. I told my dad when it was five minutes after, ‘You could punch me in the face right now and I wouldn’t feel it.’ It is just the biggest adrenaline rush and the happiest moment in my life to this date. It’s unreal.”

Torkelson became the fourth No. 1 overall pick from Arizona State, joining outfielder Rick Monday (1965), left-handed pitcher Floyd Bannister (1976) and third baseman Bob Horner (1978).

The Tigers made the No. 1 overall pick for the second time in three years, having selected Auburn right-hander Casey Mize to open the 2018 draft. The only other time Detroit had the No. 1 selection, they selected Rice right-hander Matt Anderson in 1997. Anderson had a mediocre seven-year career in the majors, mostly as a middle reliever.

With the second overall pick, the Baltimore Orioles chose Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad. The 21-year-old Texas native hit .448 with six homers and 20 RBIs in 16 games this year, leaving him with a .343 average, 37 homers and 129 RBIs in 150 career games for the Razorbacks.

The Miami Marlins used the third overall pick on University of Minnesota junior right-hander Max Meyer. In four starts this year, Meyer went 3-1 with a 1.95 ERA. He posted a 10-7 record and a 2.13 ERA while logging 187 strikeouts and 41 walks over 148 innings in 46 career appearances (15 starts) for the Golden Gophers.

The Kansas City Royals chose Texas A&M junior left-hander Asa Lacy with the fourth selection. Lacy went 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA in four starts this year and struck out 46 in 24 innings while allowing just nine hits. In three seasons with the Aggies, he went 14-5 with a 2.07 ERA, 224 strikeouts and 68 walks in 152 innings.

Vanderbilt junior infielder/outfielder Austin Martin, widely rated as one of the top two available prospects, fell to No. 5, where the Toronto Blue Jays selected him. The Jays announced him Wednesday as a shortstop.

Martin hit .377 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 16 games this year, leaving him with a career bating line of .368/.474/.532 with 14 homers and 76 RBIs in 140 games for the Commodores.

The Seattle Mariners chose Georgia right-hander Emerson Hancock with the sixth pick, and the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted New Mexico State shortstop Nick Gonzales with the seventh selection.

The first high school player drafted was outfielder Robert Hassell III, who went No. 8 to the San Diego Padres. He played at Independence High School in Thompson’s Station, Tenn.

The Colorado Rockies used the ninth pick on right fielder Zac Veen from Spruce Creek High School in Port Orange, Fla.

Rounding out the top 10, the Los Angeles Angels chose Louisville left-hander Reid Detmers.

Commissioner Rod Manfred opened the draft broadcast with a speech in which he vowed that baseball would help spark positive change in light of protests over racism following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others.

The broadcast then cut to shots of all of the team executives set to make the draft picks, each holding up a sign that read, “Black Lives Matter. United for Change.”

This year’s draft was reduced to five rounds as part of an agreement between MLB and the players union amid the coronavirus pandemic. The 37 picks (the first round and Competitive Balance Round A) were set to be made Wednesday, with the 123 more picks to be made Thursday.

2020 Major League Baseball Draft

Round 1

1. Detroit Tigers, Spencer Torkelson, 3B, Arizona State

2. Baltimore Orioles, Heston Kjerstad, OF, Arkansas

3. Miami Marlins, Max Meyer, RHP, Minnesota

4. Kansas City Royals, Asa Lacy, LHP, Texas A&M

5. Toronto Blue Jays, Austin Martin, SS, Vanderbilt

6. Seattle Mariners, Emerson Hancock, RHP, Georgia

7. Pittsburgh Pirates, Nick Gonzales, SS, New Mexico State

8. San Diego Padres, Robert Hassell III, OF, Independence High School (Thompson’s Station, Tenn.)

9. Colorado Rockies, Zac Veen, OF, Spruce Creek High School (Port Orange, Fla.)

10. Los Angeles Angels, Reid Detmers, LHP, Louisville

11. Chicago White Sox, Garrett Crotchet, LHP, Tennessee

12. Cincinnati Reds, Austin Hendrick, OF, West Allegheny High School (Imperial, Pa.)

13. San Francisco Giants, Patrick Bailey, C, North Carolina State

14. Texas Rangers, Justin Foscue, 2B, Mississippi State

15. Philadelphia Phillies, Mick Abel, RHP, Jesuit High School (Beaverton, Ore.)

16. Chicago Cubs, Ed Howard, SS, Mount Carmel High School (Chicago)

17. Boston Red Sox, Nick Yorke, 2B, Archbishop Mitty High School (San Jose, Calif.)

18. Arizona Diamondbacks, Bryce Jarvis, RHP, Duke

19. New York Mets, Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, Harvard-Westlake School (Los Angeles)

20. Milwaukee Brewers, Garrett Mitchell, OF, UCLA

21. St. Louis Cardinals, Jordan Walker, 3B, Decatur (Ga.) High School

22. Washington Nationals, Cade Cavalli, RHP, Oklahoma

23. Cleveland Indians, Carson Tucker, SS, Mountain Pointe High School (Phoenix)

24. Tampa Bay Rays, Nick Bitsko, RHP, Central Bucks High School East (Doylestown, Pa.)

25. Atlanta Braves, Jared Shuster, LHP, Wake Forest

26. Oakland Athletics, Tyler Soderstrom, C, Turlock (Calif.) High School

27. Minnesota Twins, Aaron Sabato, 1B, North Carolina

28. New York Yankees, Austin Wells, C, Arizona

29. Los Angeles Dodgers, Bobby Miller, RHP, Louisville

Competitive Balance Round A

30. Baltimore Orioles, Jordan Westburg, SS, Mississippi State

31. Pittsburgh Pirates, Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP, South Carolina

32. Kansas City Royals, Nick Loftin, SS, Baylor

33. Arizona Diamondbacks, Slade Cecconi, RHP, Miami

34. San Diego Padres, Justin Lange, RHP, Llano (Texas) High School

35. Colorado Rockies, Drew Romo, C, The Woodlands (Texas) High School

36. Cleveland Indians, Tanner Burns, RHP, Auburn

37. Tampa Bay Rays, Alika Williams, SS, Arizona State

--Field Level Media