PHOENIX – Rick Monday. Floyd Bannister. Bob Horner.
And now, Spencer Torkelson.
When the Detroit Tigers selected the Arizona State slugger No. 1 overall in the 2020 MLB Draft on Wednesday, Torkelson became the fourth ASU baseball player drafted No. 1 overall.
“It’s unbelievable to be in the same conversation as those amazing players and their careers,” he said “It’s special. You got to realize that it’s just a start because they did more than me. They went on and they were successful and that’s my next mission.”
His career at ASU was mesmerizing.
In two and a half seasons at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, Torkelson mashed 54 home runs, three shy of the ASU home run record held by Horner.
He didn’t stop there. Torkelson also broke the ASU freshman home run record held by Barry Bonds.
He led the Pac-12 in home runs all three years in Tempe and was a Golden Spikes semifinalist twice.
“You’re something, and then you put the dashes and numbers and exclamation points,” ASU manager Tracy Smith said. “Crazy if you don’t take him No. 1. How’s that? He is who he is. It doesn’t really take much from us to push him over the top.”
And crazy the Tigers were not. During a trip to Tempe, Scott Pleis, Detroit’s director of amateur scouting, recalled his first moments seeing Torkelson with Hall of Famer Alan Trammell, a special assistant to the team president.
“We saw Tork and about five minutes into it he goes, ‘I really like this guy’ and I said, ‘Yeah, me, too,'” Pleis said. “We saw the power, we saw the athleticism, we saw the plate discipline, we saw the defense, I mean he’s just kind of the total package.”
When Torkelson’s name was called Wednesday, he was drafted as a third baseman. It surprised many because Torkelson played his entire Sun Devils career at first.
It was not a surprise, however, to Trammell.
“Saying Spencer Torkelson, third base, I think that’s a compliment to Spencer,” he said. “Again, if it doesn’t work out, we know he can play first. But it can help the organization if he can so we’re gonna give it a shot. This is a good looking kid and I love the drive.”
Torkelson finished off his first press conference as a major leaguer, telling a story about being undrafted out of Casa Grande High School in Petaluma, California.
“Going undrafted out of high school, the second after the 40th round ended on the third day in 2017, I called up my uncle, I called up my buddies and I was like, ‘Let’s go hit at Casa,” he said. “I just wanted to try and hit balls as hard as I can and get over this because I had told myself I’m going to be a first-rounder out of ASU.”
And for No. 20, that prophecy has been fulfilled.
Torkelson wasn’t the only Sun Devils player to get action in the shortened 2020 MLB Draft. Shortstop Alika Williams completed the ASU bookends of the draft, going No. 37 overall, to the Tampa Bay Rays.
By the time day two was finished, five Sun Devils were off the board.
Three more ASU players were taken in rounds two through five, with Trevor Hauver selected 99th overall by the New York Yankees to start the day. Three picks later, Torkelson received some company on the Tigers, with third baseman Gage Workman drafted 102nd overall. He will join Torkelson in a battle for the third base slot.
“It was a little surprising. I thought maybe the Tigers were taking me first overall.” Workman said. “I feel like we will work together, we’ll make each other better, just like we’ve done the last three years at Arizona State.”
RJ Dabovich rounded out the day for ASU, joining former Sun Devils Hunter Bishop and Carter Aldrete in San Francisco after he was selected 114th overall.
The five ASU ballplayers selected marked a program record.
Even though it was a happy time for the Sun Devils, for Workman, he was sad to see the special team’s time cut short.
“It just makes me a little sad to think that we probably could have done some damage in Omaha this year and probably could’ve had a shot for a national championship, but we will never know,” he said.
With the season behind them and a future ahead, these five are poised to make their mark at the next level.