MLB kicks off its first-ever five-round draft Wednesday night at 7 p.m. ET, and multiple ASU baseball players will be anticipating having their names called.
While first baseman Spencer Torkelson is in the conversation to be selected first overall by the Detroit Tigers, other Sun Devils, such as shortstop Alika Williams, third baseman Gage Workman and many more may be selected in later rounds.
Torkelson is 'just too good' to pass up
In his freshman season in Tempe, Torkelson broke the ASU freshman home run record set by Barry Bonds. This achievement thrust Torkelson into the spotlight after going undrafted out of high school. MLB Pipeline senior writer Jim Callis is one of many who believe Torkelson will be selected with the first overall pick by the Tigers Wednesday.
"I think it is (a sure thing Torkelson goes number one)," Callis said in an interview with The State Press. "I know I would be shocked if they don’t take him number one. I think virtually everyone in baseball, all the other teams, would be shocked if he didn’t go number one. He is just too good."
Callis added that many around baseball believe Torkelson is the most talented hitter to come out of the draft since Mark Teixeira in 2001.
ASU hitting coach Michael Earley believes Torkelson is hard to compare to anyone and, instead, will have prospects soon compared to him in the same way players such as Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout, Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper and New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso draw comparisons now.
"I think one day he is going to be one of those guys that becomes a comp," Earley said in an interview with The State Press. "I feel like he is going to set another bar."
An aspect of Torkelson's game that gets overlooked due to his offensive ability is his defensive ability, Callis said.
"If the Tigers draft him or wherever he goes, he’ll probably get a chance to play third base and maybe left field. But, in the end, it doesn’t really matter," Callis said. "Even if he winds up being first base only or a DH (designated hitter), I think the bat is so good that it is not going to matter."
Both Callis and Earley attribute the talent around the Sun Devil infield for overshadowing Torkelson's potential defensive versatility.
"People forget we have a first rounder at short, potential first rounder at third and, a guy who might be better than all of them at their position, is (Drew) Swift," Earley said. "We didn’t have to use (Torkelson) like that, but he is not just a plug in at first base because he’s big and can hit. You could do that and he’d have a great career, but he’s one of the best athletes on our team."
If taken by Detroit, Torkelson may not have to wait long before reaching the majors.
"Guys think in the big leagues, he’d be Detroit’s best first base option as soon as they draft him," Callis said. "Because he is going to, perhaps, lose his first pro summer and maybe not debut until next year, maybe (the Tigers) will just say, 'Lets not mess around and get him to the big leagues as quick as possible.'"
Williams: 'Best defensive shortstop' out of college in draft
Williams is known around baseball as a great defender, leading many to project him as a high second round selection.
"If you surveyed teams, he'd be the best defensive shortstop in the college crop this year," Callis said.
His abilities at the plate, however, is where some opinions about his potential as a player differ.
"I think if he were more productive at the plate, he'd be a first round pick," Callis said.
Earley believes the numbers and Williams' steady improvement show potential for him offensively. That improvement at the plate was ignited by a set of numbers Earley found.
Earley noticed Williams struggled with trying to do too much at the plate early on in his Sun Devil career. He then dove deeper into Williams' hitting statistics, specifically in two-strike counts, and helped Williams see a tale of two different hitters, guiding him in refining his approach.
"(Williams’ batting average in two-strike counts) was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen; he hit over .300 in all of those counts," Earley said. "Well, he hit below .300 in all of the hitter’s counts. We already knew he was trying to do too much in hitter’s counts. Where in two-strike counts, you’re not (trying to do too much), you’re just trying to put the bat on the ball. That just gave validity to what we already knew and it really clicked for him."
Earley said that Williams may have been "robbed of a season" where he could have hit "around 10 home runs" with a high batting average.
The potential development in offensive production and his great fielding are why Callis believes Williams has a chance to be taken in the supplemental first round, the round of eight selections between the first and second round.
Dabovich, Fall may draw interest
Right-handed pitcher RJ Dabovich earned much of his playing time as a Sun Devil out of the bullpen. Callis believes his overpowering fastball and struggles with control are reasons Dabovich should remain a reliever in the majors.
"With the way the game is going, even starters, you're hoping to get five innings out of them," Callis said. "(Dabovich's) value comes more, you keep him in the bullpen, you let him overpower hitters."
Left-handed pitcher Justin Fall drew interest in the 2019 MLB Draft out of junior college, hearing his name called in the 34th round by the Kansas City Royals, and he may draw interest again this year.
The two pitchers are ranked next to each other on MLB.com's top 200 draft prospects rankings, with Fall appearing at No. 119 and Dabovich at No. 120.
Workman, Hauver and other ASU hitters
Workman is another member of the Sun Devil infield that could hear their name called on Wednesday or Thursday.
Earley believes Workman's defensive ability sets him apart, having potential to win Gold Glove awards playing third base.
"I don’t know what it takes to be a Gold Glove third baseman. But I have to believe at 20 years old, looking like that is a start," Earley said. "I am really impressed by his ability to play third base and make some of the crazy plays he can make.”
Left fielder Trevor Hauver projects to be selected between the third and fifth rounds, Callis said. Earley believes Hauver was the second-best hitter in the Pac-12 in 2020, only behind Torkelson.
"Trevor is the most under-appreciated player in the country," Earley said. "He hit .350 or .360 last year with 13 home runs and no one said a word about it."
Incoming Sun Devil signee and shortstop Colt Keith is ranked No. 87 in MLB Pipeline's top 200 draft prospects rankings, and Callis says it's very possible he may be drafted.
"I could see him going mid-second to early third (round)," Callis said. "The question is, is that high enough to sign him?"
Earley saw Keith's potential to be a talented player very early on.
"I saw then when he was young, this was four years ago, he was an elite level athlete who has really, really good overall tools, but at the same time is a really good baseball player," Earley said.
Other potential Sun Devils who could be selected include Swift, along with pitchers Boyd Vander Kooi and Erik Tolman. Incoming signee and right-handed pitcher Hunter Barnhart also appears in MLB Pipeline's top 200 draft prospects rankings.