When the Detroit Tigers make the No. 1 selection in the 2020 MLB Draft, it’s likely going to be one of two players, Arizona State’s Spencer Torkelson or Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin.
With another shot at the top pick, the Tigers will be hoping to add more talent to their pipeline, and they seem to have two clear options for this year’s No. 1 pick.
Detroit could select a polished slugger that the team lacks, or draft a high-upside future All-Star third baseman/centerfielder. In various mock MLB Drafts, the prospects slated to go first are either Arizona State’s Spencer Torkelson or Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin.
Let’s start with Torkelson. A first baseman hasn’t gone first overall in the MLB Draft since Adrián González in 2000. Torkelson has the chance to be an impact bat and in a hurry.
As a Sun Devil, Torkelson is hitting a career .337/.463/.729 at Arizona State. The 6’1″, 220-pound first baseman made a great first impression when he broke the school’s freshman home run record, previously set by Barry Bonds.
If it wasn’t for the COVID-19 pandemic, Torkelson was two homers shy of tying Bob Horner’s career record of 56. The 20-year old has the potential to be a franchise-altering bat and drafting him is taking a chance on his power. He controls his at-bats very well while drawing a ton of walks.
Meanwhile, Martin has enjoyed a different kind of success. Hitting a career .376/.479/.521, he helped Vanderbilt win the 2019 College World Series. Before the Commodores halted the 2020 season, the 21-year old was hitting .377/.507/.660 with three home runs in 16 games. He’s a gifted defender who mostly played third base last year and center field this spring.
Offensively, the difference in both these players is evident in their stat lines. Torkelson has power, whereas Martin is more of a doubles hitter, but his power figures to improve as he matures and gets stronger.
Where the two stand apart is the defense.
Martin is considered a premium defender up the middle whose versatility could help the Tigers as scouts project Martin could be a long-term shortstop. The Athletic’s Keith Law compared the two top prospects on Glenn Clark Radio.
“Austin Martin’s a much better athlete, more upside, plays some higher-skill positions — maybe center field, I’ve seen him really good at third base — speed, bat speed, some power, still room to grow.”
“Torkelson is a finished product. He is a slugging first baseman. As long as he makes enough contact, he’s going to be a good big leaguer.”
Personally, it seems as if Martin would be the player to take with the No. 1 pick. He’s a player with a five-tool upside. That upside comes with incredible speed, controlling the strike zone extremely well, and enough arm to handle any position, especially premium defensive spots.
Either way, it appears that the Tigers can solve a long-term need at either shortstop or first base. Detroit’s farm system is heavy with pitching prospects Casey Mize, Matt Manning, and Tarik Skubal. Martin would be a cornerstone piece the Tigers need, and a future star to build around going forward.