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College baseball round-up: Spencer Torkelson homered again

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Torkelson is off to a torrid start in 2020.

COLLEGE BASEBALL: MAY 19 Arizona State at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

True first basemen don’t often draw a lot of love from scouts before the MLB draft. Even a great defender will have to hit very well to provide value at the MLB level, and many teams would rather hunt for elusive five-tool prospects at the top of the draft.

Case in point: only three first basemen have ever been drafted first overall. Adrian Gonzalez, who went No. 1 overall to the Marlins in 2000, is the only one to be taken with the top pick in the draft in over 40 years, and only six others — seven, if you include two-way player Brendan McKay — have gone in the top 10 since Gonzalez was drafted.

That doesn’t mean these players are guaranteed to be busts, though. The list of first basemen drafted in the first round is littered with All-Stars, and includes Hall of Famers Frank Thomas and Harold Baines (who went first overall in 1977).

This brings us to Spencer Torkelson, who is on fire

Torkelson homered again on Sunday, bringing his total to four dingers in eight games played this season. He is hitting a cool .333/.568/.917 so far, with nearly twice as many walks (13) as strikeouts (7). He also has a pair of doubles to his name, and a stolen base (in two attempts).

Will Torkelson go first overall? A vocal contingent of our fanbase sure hopes so, while others are still rooting for a more traditional option like Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin. Torkelson will almost surely cool off at some point, but is an early favorite to take home this year’s Golden Spikes Award. He is also the top prospect on Baseball America’s draft board, and the top hitter on MLB Pipeline’s list. Most early mocks have the Tigers taking Martin, but Torkelson is making his early case.

If he keeps this up, it will be very difficult to ignore him.

Austin Martin is also making his case

Vanderbilt has gotten back on track after dropping two games last weekend, with five wins in a row (all against smaller schools). Martin has started to heat up, and was hitting .360/.515/.520 through Saturday’s action. He went 0-for-2 in Sunday’s win over Illinois-Chicago, but walked and drove in a run. He has yet to hit a home run this season, but four of his nine hits have gone for extra bases.

No, we don’t need to worry about Emerson Hancock

Everyone seems to overreact to a poor performance on Opening Day, no matter the level of competition. That was true for Georgia righthander Emerson Hancock, who was rocked for six runs by the Richmond Spiders in his first start of the season. He bounced back in a big way this past Friday, striking out eight in seven scoreless innings against Santa Clara. While many Tigers fans would prefer to see the team take a hitter with their No. 1 pick this June due to the plethora of arms already atop their farm system, Hancock has the potential to be the best of the bunch.

Nick Gonzales might be my favorite prospect in this draft

If you thought Torkelson was on fire, check out what New Mexico State second baseman Nick Gonzales has done to open the year.

The 5’10 junior is 17-for-30 on the young season, with an absurd .567/.698/1.433 line to his name. He has seven home runs on the year, with 10 walks to just four strikeouts. He has also been hit by a pitch three times, for good measure. Gonzales won’t face the same level of competition that many of the top prospects in this year’s draft will see throughout the course of the season, but he and the Aggies will square off against Torkelson’s Arizona State Sun Devils on Tuesday.

Gonzales, a right-handed hitter, can apparently also do this.

Heston Kjerstad is also hitting everything

Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad probably won’t work his way into the conversation at No. 1 overall, but he looks to be a safe bet for the top half of the first round. The junior, who was an All-SEC player last year, is hitting .393/.500/.929 through seven games, all wins for the Razorbacks. He has four home runs and three doubles, with a team-leading 11 RBI on the ledger. Kjerstad’s teammate, infielder Casey Martin, is also projected as a first round talent. He has not started off quite as hot, however, hitting just .208/.387/.375 in 24 at-bats. Arkansas will get a stiffer test next weekend with a trio of neutral site games against Big 12 opponents.

Bryce Jarvis is perfect

Duke righthander isn’t on the radar at No. 1 overall, or even in the first round — Baseball America has him ranked 195th among all draft prospects — but he was more than enough for Cornell on Friday. Jarvis threw a perfect game, the first in Duke history, in an 8-0 victory over the Big Red. He was absolutely dominant, striking out 15 while throwing just 94 pitches.

Ole Miss joined the no-hitter party over the weekend, using three pitchers to blank Xavier on Friday. Starter Doug Nikhazy, a sophomore who will be worth watching for the 2021 draft, walked two hitters and struck out nine. Reliever Drew McDaniel also walked a batter.

In unrelated news, they also seem to be having a lot of fun.

The young man who threw that laser is Hayden Dunhurst, who took over catching duties for 2019 Tigers draft pick Cooper Johnson, a strong defender in his own right.