Detroit Tigers Top 20 Prospects: No. 2 Spencer Torkelson

Detroit Tigers prospect Riley Greene, pictured during instructional league play in Lakeland, Florida, shakes hands with Spencer Torkelson.
Detroit Tigers prospect Riley Greene, pictured during instructional league play in Lakeland, Florida, shakes hands with Spencer Torkelson. /

Welcome to the first installment of the Motor City Bengals Top 20 Detroit Tigers prospects. The MCB staff has compiled our prospect lists and we will be releasing our consensus rankings, along with a breakdown of each player, in a series of articles in the coming days. Today we look at the Detroit Tigers’ second-ranked prospect and 2020’s first overall pick in the MLB Draft, Spencer Torkelson.

Torkelson was chosen above all others last June after a dazzling three-year offensive display at Arizona State saw him dominate PAC-12 pitching. After the draft he disappeared into the Witness Protection Program…otherwise known as the Alternative Training Site in Toledo.

Detroit Tigers prospects watchers are champing at the bit to see Torkelson in-game action this Spring as he launches his march to the starting lineup at Comerica Park.

Spencer Torkelson Background Check

A three-sport athlete out of Petaluma, CA, Torkelson committed to be an Arizona State Sun Devil under coach Tracy Smith.

Torkelson immediately raised eyebrows around the college baseball world with a huge freshman season that netted him PAC-12 Freshman of the Year honors.

Things only went from good to WOW over the next year at ASU. A superlative sophomore campaign vaulted him at or near the top of mock drafts for the following summer’s MLB Draft. A good run followed as a Chatham Angler in the Cape Cod League showing good bat control and power with wood bats. The hype was building.

Torkelson’s Junior year was off to a good start even as he was pitched around quite often. But COVID-19 shut down the NCAA to put a stop to Torkelson’s rewriting of the ASU record book.

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To many, it was becoming “Torkelson versus the Field” the first overall pick in 2020.

Spencer Torkelson Strengths

Torkelson has extreme raw power and has had no problem getting to it in-game situations as his 54 college homers attest. However, he is far from being a power-hitting sellout.

Torkelson has power to all fields, hit for high average each season, and, perhaps most impressively for a slugging corner infielder, he struck out less than he walked for his ASU career after pitchers avoided him in the COVID season with a 31/15 walk-to-K ratio.

Do the questions now revolve around what path to the majors does Torkelson force upon the Tigers? If his first pro season in the minors at all resembles the remarkable first two years at ASU, expect to see Torkelson by early ‘22 at the very latest. A late appearance in ‘21 is very likely as well.

Spencer Torkelson Weaknesses

When a player is getting hyped for literally a couple of years the talk of weaknesses eventually fades slightly as the accolades pile up unless something quite unsightly occurs. Nothing unsightly happened.  Torkelson performed like a 1st overall guy.

There is the uncertainty of course about Torkelson and his ultimate defensive destination. He’s been primarily a 1B and he’s become a good one. In due course, that’s where he might end up.

But first, he’ll be making a transition to 3B after not playing the position at ASU. Torkelson probably has the athleticism to be a semblance of an MLB 3B but his arm isn’t a cannon. The Tigers are in a position to let him experiment for some time at 3B to see if he can hold down the tougher defensive spot.

If Torkelson has any pronounced weaknesses he’ll need to show it because it’s hard to pin one down based on his time at ASU. Being uncertain about a final defensive spot is different than declaring it a weakness. Professional pitching facing him daily should also shine a light on his areas of improvement-needed in fairly short order.

Our Take on Spencer Torkelson

It’s just a wait-and-see situation now. By all accounts, he could be put on a very aggressive timeline to the majors. The Detroit Tigers are an offensively starved organization with only so much offensive talent rising up in the system. The organization is probably under more pressure to develop Torkelson into an offensive cornerstone than the player will feel to be one. Torkelson has his $8.42M bonus banked. The Tigers are banking on his development to be relevant again in the AL Central.

The worries about 1B versus 3B will clear itself up in due course because it’s all about the bat. If he hits as anticipated it won’t matter a whole lot where he plays but it would be intriguing if he can show enough skill to a regular 3B.

Given the possible scarcity of run-scoring with the big club in Detroit in ‘21 it’ll be Torkelson providing fireworks in the minors fans will be waiting to hear about and catch videos on Twitter. Then the anticipation of an MLB league arrival for a premium young bat will truly start building to a loud drumbeat.