Tigers optimistic top pick Torkelson will thrive at 3B

The Detroit Tigers didn’t surprise anyone with the top selection in the annual June amateur baseball draft. They still found a way to toss in a curveball.When commissioner Rob Manfred announced Spencer Torkelson of Arizona State as the No. 1 pick in the draft, he listed him as a third baseman. That wasn’t a mistake.While Torkelson could have made history as the first college first baseman and the first right-handed-hitting first baseman to be chosen No. 1 overall, the Tigers want to move Torkelson to third base.”We know he can play first, but our scouts strongly feel that he can play third base,” Detroit general manager Al Avila said in an ESPN interview. “That’s our intent at this point.”Torkelson took it as a compliment that the Tigers believe he can play a more demanding position.”It shows the respect they have for me as an athlete,” he said in an MLB Network interview. “I think of myself as a baseball player. If you give me a bat, a ball and a glove, I’ll just run with it.”The Tigers didn’t make Torkelson the No. 1 pick because they believe he’ll become a quality third baseman. They took him ahead of every other eligible prospect because they desperately need to upgrade their anemic offense.Torkelson mashed 48 homers in 112 games during his first two seasons at Arizona State. He blasted six more in 17 games this year before the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly ended the college season. Pitchers and managers were so fearful of Torkelson’s power that he rarely saw a strike. He was walked 31 times in those 17 games.Overall, he hit .337 with a .729 slugging percentage and a .463 on-base percentage during his college career.”Spencer is exactly the type of player we hoped would be there for us with the top pick in this year’s draft,” said Scott Pleis, the Tigers’ director of amateur scouting. “He’s one of the most polished hitters we’ve seen in the draft for quite some time, showing plus-plus power and excellent plate discipline.”The Tigers didn’t have much of either skill in 2019, when they finished with the second-fewest homers in the majors and set a major league record by striking out 1,595 times.