The Detroit Tigers added ASU star Spencer Torkelson to the fold on Wednesday night
The Detroit Tigers made a big step in continuing to build their farm system Wednesday night when they selected Spencer Torkelson with the first overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. The Tigers, who have built their farm system on pitching, have now added position players with their first-round picks each of the last two seasons. Riley Greene was the fifth overall pick in 2019 and has shown great promise as a young bat out of high school thus far in his major league career.
For many, the system’s best prospect has been Casey Mize; the club’s first overall selection just two years ago. However, a shoulder injury late last season caused a stint on the injured list and he was never quite right upon his return. There has also been a recent rise in affection for starters Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal. So this begs the question: is the top spot up for grabs?
Of course, there is a bit of subjectivity with any prospect list or preference. Different weights need to be applied to the risks and strengths associated with prospects. Some of these examples include overall talent, injury risk or history, character, projection, and success at upper levels. Success does not always mark the best prospect, but achieving some level of success in the upper minors at a young age can mean a lot in terms of how scouts and teams perceive a prospect.
The top spot in the Detroit system is really a three-headed race between Torkelson, Mize, and Manning. Torkelson would be the lone position player of the three; and although position players are typically viewed as less risky than pitching prospects, he has yet to see professional pitching. Additionally, Torkelson is likely to start at High-A Lakeland whereas Manning and Mize are more advanced and may hit the big leagues out of spring training if the club was looking to compete.
Mize, as mentioned above, has dealt with injury and some question his ability to handle a full MLB season workload now with his shoulder. Arm injuries do have a tendency to nag and come back, but the Tigers have handled Mize carefully and I think Mize is primed for a big 2020 season that will eventually include a call-up.
Manning, meanwhile, may have the most upside of the trio with his athletic frame and size on the mound; although his spring training results exposed his lack of fastball movement a bit. He also may have the most risk of the three as he hasn’t totally developed a third pitch completely, although his changeup has made recent strides.
Casey Mize’s injury is more of a speed bump than a concern in the context of the totality of his career. He has the work ethic and leverages all of the modern tools many pitchers need to succeed in today’s game. Add to that I believe Mize could pitch and succeed in the major leagues right now, and, well, I think Mize still belongs at the top spot as of now (as tempting as it is to put the shiny new toy at the top).
I envision Torkelson making a run through the minors in a hurry and there will be a brief conversation about Torkelson taking over the top spot as he reaches the upper levels, but this will likely happen about the same time that Mize hits the show and ultimately loses his prospect status. Regardless of any meaningless prospect list, though, the future just got brighter for the Detroit Tigers.