Published May 29, 2020
In preparation for any professional sports draft, there’s a time and a place to take that extra time for just a little more analysis, watch just a few more minutes of film and have one more huddle with your lieutenants.
This isn’t that time for the Tigers.
This is the time for Al Avila and company to check their collective brains at the door. Don’t overthink this one.
In fact, the name SPENCER TORKELSON should already be emblazoned on a card somewhere, ready to be read to the commissioner, or whoever records the draft choices in MLB.
This isn’t the time to get cute.
Don’t pull a Joe Dumars here. Don’t try to be the smartest man in the room, as the Pistons’ GM tried to be in 2003 with his ill-fated pick of Darko Milicic with the no. 2 overall selection in the NBA Draft. The Tigers can’t afford that kind of nonsense. Dumars kind of got away with it, because the Pistons were less than a year away from a championship, as it turned out.
The Tigers are light years away from contention. They need all the sparkling young talent they can get their hands on. They can’t make any missteps on June 10.
They need to pick Torkelson, the Paul Goldschmidt-like slugger out of Arizona State University, with the no. 1 overall pick. Full stop.
Don’t listen to the pundits who would put other names out there, such as Texa A&M’s Asa Lacey or Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin. Some even suggest the Tigers going the “cost savings” route to choose high schooler Zac Veen.
Don’t do it.
I know any draft is fraught with danger. Any “sure thing” could turn out to be the biggest bust of all time. I get it. But Torkelson is the most exciting offensive player to come down the pike in a long time—and he’s exactly what the Tigers need, to boot.
Last year’s pick of Riley Greene was a step in the right direction: a left-handed bat with a smooth stroke; someone who could pepper the right field seats with battered baseballs.
Torkelson swings from the right, and the aforementioned comparison to Goldschmidt of the Cardinals is hardly mine alone. Both are tall, menacing and play the same position (first base, though Torkelson could perhaps play the outfield as well). Borderline future HOFer Joey Votto has also been used in comparison to Torkelson.
The Tigers need a first baseman in the worst way. In fact, they need a lot of things in the worst way. But offense, especially, has been woefully missing from the lineup in recent years, and the Tigers won’t be drafting Torkelson to have him get seasoned in the minor leagues for 3-5 years. This is a kid who you draft in June and have him in the Opening Day lineup the following April (or March).
Yet Torkelson’s gifted bat isn’t enough for the baseball nerds, who want to talk defense and metrics and all that rubbish. Phooey on that. I don’t care if Torkelson comes out of college with a glove that makes Dick Stuart look like Keith Hernandez. Take Tork and work with him on his defense. Defense can be improved; you can’t “coach up” a bat to Torkelson’s level.
Tigers GM Avila, uncharacteristically, has been mostly quiet about the team’s thinking heading into the draft. “I know we already have a full list of all the guys that are pertinent to the draft for us,” Avila told MLB.com’s Jason Beck in March. “Obviously, you’d like to see them play more, but I would say if the draft were tomorrow, we’d be prepared, for sure.”
Ah, but what about the money that would be needed to get Tork’s signature on a contract? The kid is being represented by super agent Scott Boras, and that has some Nervous Nellies wringing their hands about whether Chris Ilitch will cough up enough of the family’s pizza dough in order to secure Tork’s services.
All I can say about that is, if Chris Ilitch balks on going the Torkelson route because of money, he’ll have a fan revolt on his hands.
So there’s no reason to “stun the baseball world,” as some pundits are suggesting the Tigers do in NOT selecting Tork. No reason to overthink this, which inevitably leads to getting it wrong anyway. This isn’t the time or place for that.
The Tigers need to confidently submit Spencer Torkelson’s name on June 10, sit back, light a cigar and raise a glass in a toast. A bat like this doesn’t land in your laps every day. In fact, I can’t recall a position player with this much glow on him that the Tigers have drafted, ever. And I’ve been following the team for 50 years.
Don’t get cute. If Al Avila wants to indeed be the smartest guy in the room, then he’ll pick Torkelson. If the young man falters, at least you can say that you were far from the only one who would have drafted him no. 1 overall. If you go the Dumars route, you’re opening yourself up for a permanent staining of your legacy. It’s been 17 years and still Joe D can’t live down the Milicic pick.
It’s Torkelson. Period.