Agent Scott Boras: Tigers get 'franchise-altering' player in Spencer Torkelson
Always and unfailingly, Scott Boras has grandiose words for his clients. And always, he will show in imposing detail, he has the data to prove it.
Boras long ago suspected a teen from Petaluma, California, Spencer Torkelson, would turn his Arizona State career into draft-day gold. And, of course, Boras says the Tigers got the ideal hitter Wednesday when they made Torkelson the 2020 MLB Draft’s first overall pick.
“He’s just a really, rare, rare guy,” Boras said during a phone conversation from Newport Beach, California, where his offices are situated. “In the draft community, when you have the ability to make contact and display power as he can, the names of (Ken) Griffey, Jr., A-Rod, Kris Bryant — you’re talking middle-of-the-lineup franchise bat.”
The Tigers and Boras have been working together for years, even if that’s a bit like saying Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier were once business partners.
Players who helped the Tigers to five playoff seasons and two World Series from 2006-14 were Boras cardholders: Pudge Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, Kenny Rogers, Prince Fielder, etc. It was Boras who got together with late Tigers owner Mike Ilitch to snag Johnny Damon from a free-agent shopping aisle in February of 2010.
Now, baseball’s marquee agent and the Tigers will work on a contract for Torkelson that is expected to sit somewhere in the range of $8 million. The two parties are understood to have been close enough in early overtures to all but assure a deal will be done, likely soon.
The populists knock that Torkelson is but a power-hitting first baseman, with less luster because of his position, crashes head-on with Boras’ case. And, for that matter, with Detroit’s. Not only is first base vital, defensively, but a separate reality is that both parties say Torkelson can play handily elsewhere in the infield, or outfield.
“I saw him play at first base this spring, and saw the level of improvement — footwork, picks, positioning, ” said Boras, who was a minor-league infielder before turning to pharmacology, law, and then business. “He’s a very prepared individual who’s going to be an above-average first baseman.
“There’s no reason to say he couldn’t play left field. He can do anything he sets his mind to do.”
Torkelson’s coach at ASU, Tracy Smith, agrees. Smith, in fact, has used Torkelson in center field, and insists he could play third base, or even second base, in the big leagues.
Torkelson smashed 48 homers during his freshman and sophomore seasons with the Sun Devils. He hit six more in ASU’s 17 games before coronavirus shut down college baseball’s 2020 schedule.
His three-year batting average at ASU (.337) melded with colossal on-base and slugging percentages to produce OPS in 2019 of 1.153 and 1.378 in 2020’s curtailed calendar.
“Spencer Torkelson presents for the Tigers a rare opportunity,” Boras said. “The makeup, the leadership, the character quality. I can’t say there’s been a bat like this in the draft for years.
“He’s clearly a decade player. He’s in that group when you look at the (Anthony) Rendons and the Bryants. And they’ve all won championships.”
If the platitudes sound familiar, they — in spirit, anyway — are not dissimilar from things Boras said 15 and 16 years ago about a catcher named Pudge and an ex-White Sox outfielder, Ordonez, who found themselves in free-agent limbo.
That is, until an interested owner, the late Mike Ilitch, bought Boras’ view that the playoffs were not far from Detroit’s grasp — if Ilitch added a couple of billboard bats.
He was proved right. And he says something similar is being seeded in Detroit.
“For the Tigers, this is really franchise-altering,” Boras said of Torkelson’s potential. “With the ready supply of pitching they have coming — Faedo, Mize, Manning, Skubal, to go with Matthew Boyd — this (Torkelson’s bat) will change the day. It’s a lot easier to play in the shade of a great hitter.”
Boras agrees that Comerica Park’s deeper outfield destinations are vast. And, he says, vast shouldn’t bother Torkelson.
He suggests Torkelson’s bat will be a “walled demolition unit.”
Boras paused, and said with a grin you could see across the phone line:
“We’ll call it Torkelson Construction. I’ve got an early donation ready.”
Lynn Henning is a freelance writer and former Detroit News sports reporter.