Spencer Torkelson was not a surprise pick at No. 1 overall for the Detroit Tigers, but the position he was announced at was.
After three excellent seasons at Arizona State, it was practically a formality that the Detroit Tigers would take Spencer Torkelson first overall on Wednesday. They did so, adding a polished power hitter to a system that lacks top-end position players/hitters.
Torkelson played first base through his career for the Sun Devils. But the Tigers announced him as a third baseman Wednesday night, and with that he became the first third baseman (and corner infielder) to go No. 1 overall since Pat Burrell in 1998. Torkelson did play third base in high school, so it’s not a completely foreign spot to him.
When asked by MLB Network about being tabbed as a third baseman, Torkelson embraced it.
“I’ll take it and run with it,” he said, “because I like to think of myself as a baseball player. If you give me a bat, a ball and a glove, I’m just going to want to win.”
Arizona State head coach Tracy Smith was insistent Torkelson can play third base or in the corner outfield. Tigers general manager Alex Avila told ESPN the hot corner will be the initial priority.
“We know he can play first, but our scouts feel that he can play third base and that’s our intent at this point,” Avila told ESPN. “We feel he’s more than capable of handling that.”
On Thursday, the club and the player spoke to the media about it, with Torkelson admitting he didn’t know how the Tigers saw him until the announcement.
Players change positions as a pro frequently as they physically mature, and Torkelson may still be ultimately be a first baseman. He has been compared to Mark Teixeira, who started his pro career at third base before moving across to first full-time. The Tigers haven’t appeared to be concerned with defense at the corners, as they once moved Miguel Cabrera to third base to make room for Prince Fielder.
The Tigers are expecting Torkelson to carry his power from college (54 home runs in 127 games) into his pro career, and eventually to the big leagues. So the position he settles at will be secondary and moot, unless he’s an utter disaster defensively. Even then, a power bat will find its way into a lineup somewhere.