With training camp in Mesa looming, some of you might be heading west for a training camp adventure. Obviously, plenty of games will be progressing across the Cactus League. Similarly, a decent run of college games are available for selection. The new competitor to the scene is Grand Canyon University, which has a nice run of home games in February and March at Brazzell Field on 35th Avenue in Phoenix. The key in the Phoenix metro area, though, is Arizona State games at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Their bell-ringer is first baseman Spencer Torkelson, who is keyed by his power. Here’s a look at Torkelson, and how I plan to prioritize early choices.
Before Commissioner Rob Manfred announces any punishments for the Boston Red Sox participation in the cheating scandals, the Cubs are sitting at 16, 51, and 90 in June’s Draft. Among my hopes is to prioritize to fourteen choices, and add four more for my 14+4. Torkelson, a 6-foot-1 slugger, won’t last until 16. Nonetheless, he belongs on my initial 14+4 list, which emphasizes my fourteen preferred names, and tosses in a few others, because.
“But, Anthony Rizzo is at first.”
In the baseball draft, the goal is to locate the best talent possible. To use a name, Torkelson is better respected at this time before the draft than Pete Alonso was in the year he was selected. Players do not develop in a linear fashion. If the Cubs select Torkelson, it will be because he’s a very good piece to add to the system, and may well be a quality player pre-arbitration. Nonetheless, if it were to come down to “Torkelson” or “someone below him on the perceived talent totem”, I believe it would be Torkelson.
First, there is talk that Torkelson might have some level of outfield in him. I’d toss out a potential Kyle Schwarber comparison, which might or might not be accurate. Torkelson isn’t useless defensively. College teams are about winning, and the Sun Devils prefer their chances of winning with Torkelson at first base.
Next, the goal of the front office is to locate enough talent at any position to make keeping the current players on the roster once they hit a certain earning level unnecessary. That sounds very cold and disrespectful, but Theo Epstein traded Nomar Garciaparra. The only way to find out if a player truly does want to stay in a city is to offer a reasonable contract amount, with the understanding that if it’s rebuffed, a trade becomes imminent. That happened with Jeff Samardzija.
Add in a potential addition of the designated hitter to the National League, and Torkelson makes quite a bit of sense. If selected in June by the Cubs, Torkelson might be ready by August or September 2021, though that might not be even remotely prudent, standings pending. There would be very few situations where adding a player to the 40-man roster a few months before a potential strike would be wise. That would eliminate his ability to play minor-league games the following season.
If you’re in Mesa in February or March, check out a college game. I did that three years ago, and saw four first-rounders play. College games are a bit different from pro games, and not entirely in a bad way. Phoenix Muni is a legitimate venue, and Torkelson might hit a ball into a nearby city with his power. Don’t be afraid to try out college baseball. Or high school baseball, either. Watching “only the best” can spoil you.
The current 14+4:
|Emerson Hancock||Righthanded pitcher||Georgia|
|Spencer Torkelson||First base||Arizona State|
|Mick Abel||Righthanded pitcher||Jesuit HS (OR)|
|Austin Hendrick||Right field||West Allegheny HS (PA)|
|Nick Gonzales||Second base||New Mexico State|
|Jordan Walker||Third base||Decatur HS (GA)|
|Ted Ginn||Righthanded pitcher||Mississippi State|
|Nick Bitsko||Righthanded pitcher||Central Bucks East HS (PA)|
|Robert Hassell||Center field||Independence HS (TN)|
|Jared Kelley||Righthanded pitcher||Refugio HS (TX)|
|Asa Lacy||Lefthanded pitcher||Texas A&M|
|Garrett Crochet||Lefthanded pitcher||Tennessee|
|Heston Kjerstad||Right field||Arkansas|
|Patrick Bailey||Catcher||North Carolina State|
|Zac Veen||Center field||Spruce Creek HS (FL)|
Many thanks to Fangraphs and MLB.com for their cheat sheet lists. My preference will usually be for college players, who have played against quality college players. look for periodic 14+4 updates in future columns. Questions are encouraged.