Likely No. 1 Pick Spencer Torkelson Could Play For Tigers This Season

It'd be a welcome sight for a weary fan base. 

Will Burchfield
May 29, 2020 - 2:12 pm
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Casey Mize finished the year in A-ball after the Tigers drafted him first overall in 2018. The top three college picks in last year's draft did the same. Even Bryce Harper, arguably the most polished No. 1 pick this century, had to wait two years to reach the bigs. 

Could the Tigers break the mold with Spencer Torkelson? 

Assuming Detroit picks the Arizona State slugger first overall in next month's draft, and assuming we have baseball at all in 2020, the uncertain landscape of the minor leagues might force the club to fast-track Torkelson to the majors. Arriving: this summer. 

Torkelson, who has two full college seasons under his belt, turns 21 in August. He's already lost crucial development time this spring, and the Tigers won't want him to lose any more. With the return of minor-league baseball highly unlikely in 2020, the club's only option might be to get him some reps in Detroit. 

Torkelson might even be up for it. 

"By all accounts he’s the most advanced college bat, power bat (in the draft)," MLB Network's Jon Morosi told the Karsch and Anderson Show. "We know certainly that Miguel (Cabrera) is likely to be a DH going forward, so there’s a spot for Torkelson at first base. Could we see him this year? It’s possible simply because of the dynamics of the season and the minor leagues."

Avila: Loss Of Minors 'One Of The Worst Things' For Tigers

It's not yet clear how organizations will handle their minor-league teams this year, if and when the MLB season begins. But they'll want their top prospects to play. Maybe that means intrasquad competition, maybe it means a type of 'enhanced instructional league,' as Tigers GM Al Avila suggested earlier this month

In the event big-league teams set up taxi squads to accommodate expanded rosters in a condensed season, Torkelson -- or Vanderbilt 3B/CF Austin Martin, if he's the Tigers' fancy -- figures to be in the mix. 

"Depending on how the player structure works in the minors, Torkelson could be in that stay-ready group, the taxi squad, if you will, that’s playing games either at a camp situation in Lakeland or in Detroit. And physically, being very close to the Major League team in that respect, one could imagine him getting up to the big leagues relatively soon," said Morosi. 

Not that Torkelson would immediately be the team's starting first baseman. The Tigers signed veteran C.J. Cron this winter to fill that role. Still, the sight of the club's No. 1 pick in Detroit, even in unusual circumstances, would be a welcome sight for a weary fan base. 

"We have to sort of see what everything looks like this year from a standpoint of service time and all those other considerations, but it's certainly something within the realm of possibility," said Morosi. 

The same goes for the Tigers' Big Three, of course. With Mize, Manning and Tarik Skubal knocking on the door of the big leagues, it's crucial to sustain their momentum. Mize, in particular, needs the work after a shortened 2019. Which presents an awkward possibility: their highly-anticipated debuts could come without fans in the seats. 

"That, to me, is one of the overriding concerns for the team: how valuable will experience be for those players coming up in empty stadiums?" Morosi said. "You think about the debut of a Mize or a Manning or a Skubal and how much Tigers fans are excited about those moments, and for those to be in empty ballparks is a little jarring. It hits you pretty hard that nobody would be there in person to see it." 

But if it means Tigers baseball this summer, most fans will probably take it.