The 2020 MLB draft, which begins June 10, has two players in the running to be the Detroit Tigers’ selection with the first overall pick. Vanderbilt utility player Austin Martin and Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson are the top two players in this year’s draft class and the favorites to go first and second overall in the draft.
Despite their status in this year’s draft class, the two are completely opposite in terms of profiles as baseball players. Here are evaluations of Martin and Torkelson and the impact they are projected to make in the professional ranks:
Austin Martin, INF/OF, Vanderbilt
Martin excelled in his three years at Vanderbilt after receiving very little collegiate interest until his senior season of high school in 2017. Martin is the best pure hitter in this year’s draft class. He has notable bat speed and consistently makes hard content. He also displays solid plate discipline and improving power.
Martin played all around the diamond in his three years at Vanderbilt. Scouts hoped Martin would have played shortstop this spring, but instead, he played third base and center field. Although scouts are unsure if he can handle shortstop in the pro ranks, he profiles at an up-the-middle position, whether that’s center field or second base. He has solid speed and the arm strength required to play multiple positions.
Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Arizona State
Torkelson has transformed himself into arguably the top player in this year’s draft class after going undrafted out of high school. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound right-handed hitting first baseman made an incredible impact offensively for Arizona State the last three years. He has an outstanding hitting ability with an advanced approach and solid plate discipline. He also has above-average raw power and drives the ball to all parts of the field.
Defensively, Torkelson has improved his skills at first base throughout his collegiate career. He has some experience playing left field with the USA Baseball collegiate national team last summer but profiles best at first base in pro ball. He has average arm strength and below-average speed.
Torkelson’s offensive potential is what will make him a high draft pick and carry him throughout his pro career.
I understand why people are enamored with Torkelson’s offensive potential. He destroyed the ball in his three years at Arizona State and could be an impact middle-of-the-order bat in pro ball. But all Torkelson’s value is tied to his performance at the plate. There’s a reason why no college first baseman has ever gone first overall. Although Torkelson appears like a safe bet due to his hitting ability, I’d rather take someone who has five-tool potential with the first overall pick, especially in today’s analytically-driven game.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for five years. He’s interviewed 191 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.