For most of the past month, the Tigers have steered clear of drawing comparisons for Spencer Torkelson. Al Avila declined that question -- in a national interview on ESPN -- moments after drafting him first overall. Scouting director Scott Pleis has dodged it, too. The Tigers want Torkelson to be Torkelson.
If his first round of batting practice at Comerica Park was any indication, he doesn't need to be anybody else.
Still, comparisons are tempting. They're intoxicating. Ron Gardenhire has said Torkelson reminds him of fellow first overall pick Joe Mauer, at least from a personality standpoint. And Matthew Boyd offered another parallel for Torkelson on Tuesday, based off what he's heard from his former coaches at Oregon State.
They got to see plenty of the kid -- probably more than they would have liked -- during his time at Arizona State.
"They all spoke of him in such high regard. They talk about him in the same breath as Michael Conforto -- and that's high praise." said Boyd. "I think Michael’s one of the most underrated hitters in our league, probably one of the best in our league. I know Michael’s work ethic and the way he played for three years at Oregon State, so to hear that comparison is impressive."
Boyd and Conforto were teammates for two seasons in college, before Boyd was drafted by the Blue Jays in 2013. Conforto was drafted 10th overall by the Mets a year later. He was summoned to the big leagues in 2015, then hit two homers in the World Series. He's been a regular ever since. He was an All-Star in 2017 when he posted 27 homers and a .939 OPS. His 88 home runs rank 12th in the National League over the past three seasons.
"I got to watch him take BP a little bit and that was impressive, too," said Boyd. "Excited for the day that we’re wearing the same uniform."
So is Miguel Cabrera. Boyd said the two sluggers crossed paths in the hallway between the two clubhouses at Comerica Park, the divide between the players on Detroit's 30-man roster and the prospects headed for Toledo. "And Miggy started yelling at him, ‘Hey, get on this side of the locker room soon! We need you!'" said Boyd.
That was a welcome-to-the-majors moment for the 20-year-old Torkelson.
“Miggy's the man," he said. "I met him once and he’s been so nice. For a Hall-of-Famer to say that, it’s special, something that I'll never forget. My second day in the organization and Miggy is saying that. It’s really cool to have guys like that backing me up.”
The Tigers are unlikely to summon Torkelson to Detroit this season. They'll let him get his at-bats on the taxi squad in Toledo, facing the pitchers who headline the future with him. There's a good chance they'll be in the majors together in 2021.
For now, Torkelson is soaking in his first experience at Comerica Park, one smooth swing at a time.
“It was just a cool moment in my life to be able to hit batting practice on a big-league field," he said. "It’s every kid’s dream to do that. And now to be able to do that every day is incredible."