Here's why Detroit Tigers drafted Spencer Torkelson as a third baseman

Anthony Fenech
Detroit Free Press

Spencer Torkelson, the Detroit Tigers’ first baseman of the future, was announced as a third baseman Wednesday night.

Torkelson, the Arizona State junior selected by the Tigers with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 MLB draft, never played third base in his collegiate career. But while many have pegged him as a first baseman, some talent evaluators who have seen Torkelson play believe he could play elsewhere in the majors.

"We know he can play first, but our scouts strongly feel that he can play third base," Tigers general manager Al Avila said in an ESPN interview shortly after the pick. "That's our intent at this point."

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Torkelson has played outfield 15 times at Arizona State in two-plus seasons and also right field in the Cape Cod League; some believe he can play a corner outfield spot in the big leagues.

Standford's Kyle Stowers (37) slides safely back into first before a tag from ASU's Spencer Torkelson (20) during the first inning at Phoenix Municipal Stadium in Phoenix, Ariz. on May 23, 2019.

But those close to the Arizona State baseball program believe Torkelson would have received playing time at third base in 2020, had it not been cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Torkelson’s designation as a third baseman on draft night has nothing to do with where he will land in the future; it's simply a show from the organization that he can play multiple positions. Sometimes, the knock on playing first base is that it’s a position where players are forced to play because they cannot play elsewhere.

While generally underappreciated, first base is a very important position on the field: They handle the ball more than every player except the pitcher and catcher.

Most talent evaluators believe Torkelson will end up as a first baseman. Some think he could pass as an outfielder. First base is a natural fit, given the makeup of the Tigers’ farm system.

[ Why Spencer Torkelson is a home run for Tigers in 2020 MLB draft ]

Torkelson, 20, should not be limited on his defensive abilities, and the Tigers are saying as much by announcing him at third base.

"It's not shocking to me," Torkelson told ESPN. "A baseball player isn't stuck at one position. ... That's what I pride myself on. I pride myself on winning and getting the job done. If that's at third base, that's what it is. I'll do my best over there and make it happen."

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