Arizona State University has historically been viewed as one of the greatest universities for producing major leaguers. They’ve produced multiple Major League MVPs like Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, All-Time Home Run Leader Barry Bonds, and Boston Red Sox fan favorite Dustin Pedroia, as well as many stars of the game. They’ve also won 5 College World Series Championships with their first coming in 1965.
Arizona State’s top players to watch this season as we lead up to this year’s Major League Baseball Draft are Spencer Torkelson, Alika Williams, and Gage Workman. They all have a great chance to be early round draft picks as they all ranked amongst the Top 50 or better draft prospects according to Baseball America and MLB Pipeline at one point and are some of the best in the country at their positions. They all have a chance to go within the first 100 picks which is something ASU hasn’t had since 2008 when they had Brett Wallace, Ike Davis, and Petey Paramore all go within the top 100 picks. Here’s an in-depth look at the top 3 players at ASU along with a video interview I had with them while I was out at Arizona State in February.
SPENCER TORKELSON, 1B
Background: Torkelson wasn’t drafted out of high school despite maintaining a 1.24 ERA on the mound and being the 2nd best 3rd baseman in the state of California as a prepster. Since then he’s made a huge impression, as a freshman at Arizona State he absolutely crushed the ball hitting .320 while slugging .743 on his way to not only setting a school record surpassing Barry Bonds freshman home run record of 11 but also leading the country in HR’s with 25. As a sophomore he continued his strong performance hitting .351 and once again leading the Pac-12 in HR’s with 23 while ranking in the top 5 nationally. The only other player to lead the Pac-12 conference in HR’s in consecutive seasons was former All-Star Michael Conforto. Torkelson had accomplished a rare feat of having homered in every Pac-12 ballpark by the end of his Sophomore season.
Skills: As a hitter Torkelson is incredible and very fun to watch as he’s the type of hitter that you feel could hit a HR almost every time up.
The ball jumps off his bat thanks to his plus bat speed and ability to consistently barrel balls which lead to plenty of HRs. He’s also shown the ability to hit well with wood having played with Team USA’s Collegiate National Team the past few Summers. Evaluators believe him to be a plus hitter with plus power that should only get better as he continues to improve and mature. I feel that if there’s one thing he could improve on it’s his plate discipline which is already really, really good (he currently leads the country in walks) but he has a chance to be an even more dangerous hitter. There’s a lot to like about him as a hitter as there isn’t a lot of swing and miss to his game as he does a great job of owning the strike zone and making good adjustments. This season teams are being even more careful with him at the plate and he’s still shown the ability to produce at a high level consistently which leads me to believe he will continue to improve on that. As for his fielding, people usually tend to think of guys that play first base as slow but capable of hitting tons of HR’s. Torkelson breaks that mold as he is a very good athlete that moves well at first base, he played third base as a high schooler, and has even seen some time in centerfield this season. Evaluators feel he’s an above average to plus defensive first baseman with an above average arm, and is an average runner.
Future: Torkelson looks to have the makings of a future major league star and if things go right there’s a very good chance he could be the first ever right handed hitting first baseman to be selected with the first overall pick.
Jim Callis, Senior Writer for MLB Pipeline: “With what we know now, Torkelson should be the first or second player taken in the Draft. He has similar offensive upside to Andrew Vaughn from last year’s Draft, with maybe a little more power and a little less pure hitting ability, and he’s got a chance to play the outfield that Vaughn didn’t have.”
GAGE WORKMAN, 3B
Background: Gage Workman was drafted out of Basha HS in the 14th Round in 2017 by the Milwaukee Brewers and his dad played for Arizona State in the 90’s and was a 3rd round pick of the San Diego Padres in 1996. Gage graduated a year early from high school and started in 48 games as a Freshman and lead the team in batting average in Pac-12 play with a .330 average as a Sophomore on his way to being an all Pac-12 Honorable Mention.
Skills: One of the first things that stands out when you watch Gage Workman play is how good he looks defensively. Evaluators feel he will develop into an above average or better third baseman and over the past summer he played shortstop in the Cape Cod League and was able to hold his own although most evaluators feel due to his size (6’4″) he’s probably better suited for third base where his above average or better arm plays well. As a switch hitter he hits much better and seems more comfortable from the left side than the right. He is currently power over hit and has some swing and miss concerns but evaluators feel he has a good chance to develop into an above average hitter with above average to plus power and he’s also an above average runner.
Future: Simply put, Workman is an exciting young player that does many things well but will need to continue to improve his hitting in order to become a future everyday player. He’s got a good chance to go in the early rounds this season and is currently considered a top 3 draft prospect at his position according to both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline.
ALIKA WILLIAMS, SS
Background: Alika Williams was drafted out of Rancho Bernardo HS in the 32nd Round by the New York Yankees in 2017. Williams started in 54 games as a Freshman and hit .333 with 53 RBI’s on his way to being named All-Pac 12 Honorable Mention. He also was named to the All-Pac 12 Defensive team and was a member of Team USA’s Collegiate National Team this past summer.
Skills: Williams is an above average or better defender at shortstop that should have no problem sticking there in the future. He has an above average or better arm with plenty of range and he has a chance to continue to improve. As a hitter he doesn’t strike out much and seems to make enough solid contact for evaluators to consider him an above average to plus hitter to go along with above average to plus speed. He doesn’t have much power but he could possibly someday be capable of hitting double digit HR’s but evaluators don’t see his power as being anything more than average at best. He does not strike out much at all and is perhaps the best contact hitter on the team not named Spencer Torkelson.
Future: Williams has the profile to be a major leaguer and perhaps an everyday one if he continues to improve as a hitter as he has solid speed to go along with the skills to stick at shortstop. This season the high school shortstop crop is thin and Alika already has some of the skills teams covet in their farm system, so look for him to be one of the early names to come off the board at shortstop. He is currently considered a top 5 draft prospect at his position according to both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline.
Here’s my interview with Arizona State University players Spencer Torkelson, Alika Williams, and Gage Workman.
Special thanks to Jacob Zweiback of Prospects Live for assisting me with the recording of this interview.