Al Avila: Meeting With Torkelson Gives Tigers 'Big Advantage' In Draft

The slugger could fill a big hole in Detroit's rebuild.

Karsch and Anderson
March 09, 2020 - 12:41 pm
Spencer Torkelson

© Cheryl Evans/The Republic

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In three short months, the Tigers will choose the next foundational piece of their rebuild. 

Spencer Torkelson? Austin Martin? Nick Gonzales? There's loads of talent at the top of the draft -- loads of positional talent, to boot -- so the Tigers are sitting pretty with the first overall pick. 

The good news, especially for the fans, is that all of the top candidates appear to be college players. So Detroit's No. 1 pick this year should be on a faster track to the big leagues than last year's first-rounder Riley Greene. Of course, we may see Riley Greene sooner than we thought

Torkelson, the first baseman from Arizona State, continues to lead the pack. He broke Barry Bonds' freshman homerun record at ASU in 2018 and hasn't slowed down since. He's batting .340 with a 1.378 OPS and has more than twice as many walks as strikeouts about a third of the way through this season. 

After a recent introduction with Torkelson, Tigers GM Al Avila told the Karsch and Anderson Show the club came away impressed. 

"Torkelson is certainly one of the guys that we’re looking at. And we got to meet him already, too, so that’s a big advantage for us," said Avila. "He’s a great kid. A lot of these guys are really good competitors. They work very hard, they’re very professional. In today’s game you find good guys like that."

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On top of being the best hitter, and arguably the best player, in the draft, Torkelson profiles as a player Detroit's rebuild is missing. To wit, a first baseman with pop. 

Elsewhere in the infield, the Tigers have begun to compile some promising pieces. But don't rule either Martin, the third baseman from Vanderbilt, or Gonzales, the second baseman from New Mexico State, out of the running to go first overall. Both have enhanced their top-five appeal this spring. 

Gonzales, in particular, has jumped off the page and up the board. Always a high-average hitter, he's made substantial gains in the power department. He leads the nation with 12 homers and ranks second with a ridiculous 1.765 OPS through 16 games. 

Once the Tigers finish spring training, Avila said he plans to hit the road with assistant GM David Chadd and possibly owner Chris Ilitch to do some final scouting before June.

"We’ll be closer to knowing who the guy is closer to the draft, but we’re going to let it all play out," he said. 

This much, Avila said, they're sure of: "We’ve always had the philosophy that we take the best player available, despite what position he plays. So that’s what we’re looking at, is taking the best player available."