We polled MLBTR’s readers last night about the biggest surprises on the first day of the 2020 MLB draft. Thus far, the Red Sox’ decision to choose Nick Yorke in the first round has drawn the most votes.
Before Yorke’s name was called, the Tigers had first crack at every single player available. The rebuilding ballclub went with Arizona State’s Spencer Torkelson, an advanced player with an unassailable offensive track record, effectively making him the heir apparent to legendary slugger Miguel Cabrera. The two could well overlap in the middle of the Detroit order for a few years, supposing Torkelson develops as hopes and Cabrera can rebound.
Easy enough, right? There weren’t any gasps of disbelief when Torkelson’s name was called. Then again … the Tigers did have other options.
Pundits have long debated whether Torkelson or Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin was a better selection at the top of the board. The latter has a much broader toolset and could potentially have fit into the long-term picture in Detroit in any number of ways. There’s a reason the Blue Jays were thrilled to see him somehow still available with the fifth overall selection. Perhaps the Tigers would’ve been wiser to roll with a player of this sort, particularly given the club’s complicated recent history with defensively limited slugger types. (While the Tigers have thrived with big bats, they’ve also whiffed on big money to Cabrera and Victor Martinez and ran into difficulty maximizing their control rights over J.D. Martinez and Nicholas Castellanos.)
As the Orioles showed us, that wasn’t the only alternative. The Baltimore organization decided to cut a deal with another highly valued prospect, Heston Kjerstad, in order to (presumably) allocate some of the bonus pool funds from their lofty draft pick to day-two selections. Given the limitations of this year’s draft, that strategy could open the door to some high-ceiling talent and spread the team’s draft resources over multiple players. As the debate over Torkelson and Martin shows, neither of the two was considered an especially compelling 1-1 candidate when viewed against those taken at the top in past years. The Tigers, like the O’s, certainly need a volume of players and could conceivably have taken this path as well.
There was at least one other possible approach for the Detroit brass to bat around: taking top collegiate hurler Asa Lacy of Texas A&M. The club reportedly dabbled with that idea ahead of time, due in part to the fact that they’ll now have to negotiate with agent Scott Boras over terms on Torkelson. (Boras also reps Martin.) Taking Lacy would’ve put another advanced arm into a system that’s already loaded with them. And that would’ve fit as part of a legitimate plan to pump arms into the system. There’s a reason we’ve all heard the phrases, “you can never have enough pitching” and “there is no such thing as a pitching prospect.” There’s risk and upside and need all at once. Had the Tigers ended up with an over-abundance of MLB-ready arms … well, they’d likely have little trouble finding innings and/or swapping some hurlers out for whatever bats they might need at the time. Lacy might not have been such an under-slot play as the O’s pulled, but perhaps there’d have been some leftover coin to work with in that scenario as well.
So … how do you view the Tigers’ decision? (Poll link for app users.)