In case you have not heard, the 2020 MLB Draft has been trimmed from 40 rounds all the way down to five rounds to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Detroit Tigers hold the No. 1 overall pick, thanks to their horrendous 2019 season, and the thought is that they will select a position player when they are officially on the clock.
According to ESPN insider Kiley McDonald, the Tigers will select Arizona State 1B, Spencer Torkelson.
Here is McDonald’s justification for the Tigers drafting who could very well be the next great slugger to enter Major League Baseball.
This is the chalk pick in the industry, as Tork has done everything he could do since the day he stepped on campus in Tempe, Arizona, but there’s an interesting scenario where he doesn’t go No. 1.
Torkelson and Vanderbilt second baseman Austin Martin are the consensus top two prospects in this draft and they’re both represented by Scott Boras. I normally don’t mention who is advising draftees before the draft because in the past it could affect a player’s college eligibility, but the rules have since changed and it’s very relevant in this specific instance. Texas A&M left-handed pitcher Asa Lacy is represented by a smaller outfit.
The Tigers have made it known for a while that their top draft tendencies are for SEC performance and power arms. Only Lacy fits that type to a T. Some clubs think he’s the second-best talent in the draft, or even a coin flip to be the top prospect. This is a scenario where the price and team tendencies become more important.
In this draft specifically, fewer high school players will sign and thus the team with the most money to spend on its second and third picks holds even more power than usual, with a larger pool of players to choose from, and another group that may be able to ratchet up their demands to get past the first round to where their highest bonus payday could be.
The Tigers’ rebuild is going fine so far, but they need bulk impact talent, not just a few more players. If Detroit has Lacy evaluated close to Torkelson — which isn’t clear yet, but it’s certainly possible — there’s a compelling case they could save some money for later picks, hold the hammer to choose from all but a few prep prospects and not take much, if any, downgrade in talent at 1-1.
This decision will be influenced heavily by Boras and how he positions Torkelson and Martin. The superagent’s past suggests he won’t give clubs a specific number but will be shooting for precedent-setting prices for what he believes are precedent-setting talents. That evaluation isn’t a universal view in the industry. Torkelson is an excellent prospect, but industry trends are moving away from premium valuations on any first baseman who hasn’t already proved it in the big leagues, due to the lack of margin for error in the profile. I’ve been specifically told that multiple clubs that rely on advanced models effectively move later first-round first-base types down a dozen picks or more from where their scouting reports would slot them just to account for this market/trade value consideration.
Torkelson projects as an above-average hitter with an above-average walk rate and 70-grade, 30-plus homer power. He can be passable in left field, maybe a hair below average defensively, and scouts see him turning into a Pete Alonsotype of player, but with a little more athleticism and defensive value. Tork is also generally seen as better than last year’s third overall pick and fellow destroyer of the Pac-12, White Sox 1B Andrew Vaughn, a former Cal Bear. Torkelson would fit in the late teens to 20s in my top 100 prospects. I’m hearing all four of my projected top four picks are still in the mix for Detroit.