Spencer Torkelson

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Spencer Enochs Torkelson

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Biographical Information[edit]

Spencer Torkelson was the first overall pick of the 2020 Amateur Draft, by the Detroit Tigers. His selection was expected, as he had established as one of the top prospects in the nation months before the draft, and the fact that the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to all amateur baseball competitions in March simply consolidated his position, as there was no opportunity for other candidates to emerge before the draft. Tigers scouting director Scott Pleis explained the Tigers' choice thus: "Spencer is exactly the type of player we hoped would be there for us with the top pick in this year’s Draft. 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."

Torkelson made his mark at Arizona State University as a top slugger, hitting 25 homers as a freshman in 2018, crushing the school record for most homers by a player in his first season, set by Barry Bonds in 1983 and which was 11. He hit 23 more in 2019 and had already hit 6 in 17 games when the college baseball season was canceled in 2020. He was a two-time semi-finalist for the Golden Spikes Award. He was a first baseman in college, and sometimes outfielder, although the Tigers announced him as a third baseman (he slid back to playing first base in the pros, however). Scouts compared him to Mark Teixeira as a power-hitting first baseman who should reach the majors quickly. He was the first right-handed hitting first baseman to be taken with the top pick. Surprisingly, he had not been drafted when he had graduated from high school in 2017. That said, he was already a sensation in Little League in his hometown of Petaluma, CA, when he blasted a record 36 homers in his final season. He worked with private batting instructor Joey Gomes, the brother of Jonny Gomes and a tutor to a number of top draft picks, to improve his swing, starting when he was 12 years old.

He was signed by the Tigers on June 30th and was immediately added to the team's 60-player pool for the upcoming season, the option of assigning him to the minor leagues not being available. His signing bonus was $8,416,300. He went to major league spring training in 2021, then was assigned to the West Michigan Whitecaps of the new High-A Central league when the minor league season began in May. He played 31 games there before receiving his first promotion, moving up to the Erie SeaWolves of the Double-A Northeast, then after 50 games received a final promotion, to the Toledo Mud Hens of Triple-A East. While his batting average went down at each level, he still hit .267/.383/.552 in 121 games, with 29 double and 30 homers. He also drew 77 walks, scored 89 runs and drove in 91. He also played in the 2021 Futures Game.

He was one of the big centers of attention at the Tigers spring training in 2022 and on April 2nd, the team confirmed that he ahd made the Opening Day roster. He was likely to start the bulk of games at first base, with Miguel Cabrera being relegated to DH duties and was to become the first Tigers player to make his major league debut as a starting player on Opening Day since Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore in 2010. It took him until his fifth game to get his first major league hit, and it came against Rich Hill of the Boston Red Sox in the 3rd inning on August 12th. He came around to score his first career run shortly afterwards. He did not have to wait too long for his first homer, as it came the next day, off Austin Davis of Boston, with a runner on base. Overall, however, it was a rough first season for Torkelson as he struggled to a .203 average in 110 games, with 8 homers and 28 RBIs for an OPS+ of 74. The going got so tough at one point that he was sent back to Toledo for 35 games in order to regain his strike, but he did not do much better in AAA, batting .229 with 5 homers and 18 RBIs.

Torkelson had a much better sophomore season with the Tigers in 2023 as he matched the previous year's home run total of 8 on June 19th. He hit 7 homers in June alone, although that was while batting just .196, but by August he was finally hitting the way that had been expected ever since he had been drafted first overall.

On the personal side, he is apparently a friend of Food Network host Guy Fieri, who tweeted his support for him way back in 2019, when Torkelson made the cover of Baseball America as the top slugging prospect in the amateur ranks. Torkelson's mother is the Chief Financial Officer for Fieri's businesses, and the chef has known the budding slugger since he was in high school.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2023)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2023)

Further Reading[edit]

  • David Adler: "Why there are even more Tork Bombs coming", mlb.com, August 24, 2023. [1]
  • Jason Beck: "No. 1 pick Torkelson's got the power, will to win: Chosen as a 3B, slugger says 'I'll take it and run with it'", mlb.com, June 11, 2020. [2]
  • Jason Beck: "Tigers sign No. 1 overall pick Spencer Torkelson", mlb.com, June 30, 2020. [3]
  • Jason Beck: "Torkelson rolling with punches in first camp", mlb.com, March 4, 2021. [4]
  • Jason Beck: "Torkelson has star power at Tigers' minicamp", mlb.com, February 21, 2022. [5]
  • Jason Beck: "Torkelson makes Tigers' Opening Day roster", mlb.com, April 2, 2022. [6]
  • Jason Beck: "Here's everything you need to know about Torkelson", mlb.com, April 2, 2022. [7]
  • JasoN Beck: "Could Torkelson put it all together in 2023? Hinch: 'We want him to be a big contributor, because he's a really good player'", mlb.com', January 25, 2023. [8]
  • William Boor: "Undrafted out of HS, Torkelson now a No. 1 pick: 'I didn't see this coming. I just saw a good high school player'", mlb.com, June 10, 2020. [9]
  • Michael Clair: "Dingers, drive-ins, dives: Torkelson's famous pal: Tigers' No. 1 pick has Guy Fieri in his corner", mlb.com, June 10, 2020. [10]
  • Anthony Fenech: "Arizona State's Spencer Torkelson 'too perfect' for Detroit Tigers to pass in MLB draft", USA Today, May 3, 2020. [11]
  • Jon Paul Morosi: "Torkelson's moment a long time coming", mlb.com, July 1, 2021. [12]
  • Jeff Seidel: "Inside the warehouse where Spencer Torkelson, likely No. 1 pick in MLB draft, became a top prospect", USA Today, June 7, 2020. [13]
  • Jeff Seidel: "Why Spencer Torkelson is a home run first pick for the Detroit Tigers", USA Today, June 11, 2020. [14]

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