The Tigers will be on the clock with the top pick in the shortened, five-round MLB draft tomorrow night, and although general manager Al Avila unsurprisingly declined to tip his hand in speaking with reporters today, Lynn Henning of the Detroit News writes that Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson is expected to be the pick “unless something bizarre occurs.” Torkelson has long been regarded as a potential, if not likely No. 1 overall pick, having put together an outrageous NCAA career at the plate (.337/.463/.729) while wowing scouts with elite power, a keen eye at the plate and a potentially strong hit tool. Detroit has the second-largest bonus pool in this year’s draft, due largely to the No. 1 overall selection’s $8.415MM slot value.
Even beyond the selections the Tigers will make over the next two days, though, Avila feels the club will be well-positioned to lure in undrafted amateurs, Henning’s colleague Chris McCosky writes. Bonuses for undrafted players are capped at just $20K, so the Tigers won’t be able outbid other teams, but Avila touts the manner in which his organization has embraced “modern technology” as both an advantage for luring undrafted players and preparing for the draft in general. The club’s bolstered analytics department proved vital for draft preparation in the absence of conventional scouting opportunities, Avila says. He adds that the team’s recruiting message and the clear opportunities at the MLB level both work in their favor as well.
This marks the second time in three years that the Tigers have landed the No. 1 overall selection. In 2018, the top pick led Detroit to former Auburn ace Casey Mize, who now joins fellow Tigers farmhands Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal among baseball’s premier pitching prospects. Each had been ticketed for Triple-A, but Avila acknowledges that the likely lack of a minor league season has at least led to discussion about some of the organization’s top pitching prospects beginning to log innings at the MLB level in 2020.
Avila cautions that “no final decision” has been made and call the debate a “work in progress.” The Tigers, of course, still view their rebuild as an ongoing process and likely won’t be inclined to rush any of their prized arms to the Majors. The determination surely depends on what other developmental opportunities present themselves, too. While virtually everyone expects the minor league season to be canceled, there’s been talk of a potentially expanded Arizona Fall League format and the advent of a Florida Fall League, which could give high-end prospects like Mize, Manning and Skubal some much-needed developmental reps against similarly touted minor league hitters.