ASU baseball's Spencer Torkelson is not your prototypical power hitter

The Sun Devil first baseman has a mature approach at the plate, particularly with two strikes

Long before he stepped foot in the right-handed batters box at Phoenix Municipal Stadium for his first collegiate at-bat, ASU baseball coaches and teammates were already talking about the power that freshman Spencer Torkelson possessed. 

Head coach Tracy Smith described Torkelson’s power as “Schwarber-esque,” comparing him to Chicago Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber, whom Smith coached at Indiana University.

“He’s got a mature approach. He has an idea of what he wants to do when he goes to the plate and more importantly, he executes his plan when he goes to the plate,” Smith said.

Torkelson has executed his plan at the plate more often than not so far this season. He leads the team and is tied for second in the Pac-12 in home runs (4) and is second on the team in RBI (6) behind junior outfielder Gage Canning (7).

And none of his bombs have been of the cheap variety. 

Smith said the tendency for many young sluggers after they hit a home run is to try and hit the ball farther during their next at-bat, but Torkelson doesn't do this.

“When you start thinking home run, and that is all you are trying to do, that is when you are going to get out, roll over, strike out a bunch,” Torkelson said. “So if you keep thinking 'get a base hit, hit the ball hard,' the home runs will happen if you’re strong enough.”

In his first 30 collegiate at-bats,Torkelson has shown he is not a prototypical home run or strikeout power hitter. He has shown, on multiple occasions, an ability to foul off tough pitches with two strikes and slap a single the other way if that is what it takes to get on base. 

For Torkelson, hitting with two strikes is all about thinking “sit fast and react.”

"Just try to shoot something over the second baseman’s head,” Torkelson said. “Because if you are sitting fastball and thinking right side, and they come in with something or flip a curveball, you can react.”

This mature approach has allowed him to maintain an above average on-base percentage (.333) and at the same time, do damage with one swing. Torkelson has struck out nine times and only walked three times, but his ability to hit behind in the count has kept his on-base percentage high.

Hitting coach Michael Earley said Torkelson has worked a lot on his plate discipline and his rhythm. 

“You can hit the ball out to any part of the field, so you don’t have to cheat – just keep your body under control,” Earley said.

During the time he spent with Torkelson before the season started, Earley said he immediately realized he was one of the smartest hitters on the team.

“There are guys that have the power and not the brain, but he has both, and that is why I think he is going to be really special," Earley said.

What also separates Torkelson from other freshmen hitters in Smith's and Earley’s minds is his preparation before games.

“He is always on me about watching video and hitting in the cage,” Earley said. “Him and a few other guys wear me out, but I love it.” 

But if you ask any of Torkelson’s teammates what the most exciting part of his game is, they won’t hesitate to say it's his power.

That power has been on full display during batting practice. During fall and spring practices, junior reliever Sam Romero would often stop what he was doing just to watch Torkelson take batting practice.

“It is fun watching him,” Romero said. “Whenever he comes up to bat, everybody’s like, ‘Oh, Spencer’s up,’ and then boom, there it goes.”


Reach the reporter at jpjacqu1@asu.edu or follow @joejacquezaz on Twitter.

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