by Alex Poletti
Photo by Hilary Scheinuk/The Advocate via AP
When the Detroit Tigers selected third baseman Spencer Torkelson with the first overall pick in the 2020 MLB draft, they made history on two fronts; the highly-regarded hitter became the first infielder taken at the top spot in franchise history and the first ever player taken out of Zoom University.
“I think we need to appreciate what Zoom University has been able to do with its baseball program this year,” MLB Network analyst Matt Vasgersian said during the draft telecast. “They completely dominated the College World Series this year by being the only eligible team, and now we’re going to see how their players affect the game at a professional level.”
Zoom University had a great showing in the 2020 draft, with all 29 first rounders coming out of the newly-founded online school. Though many thought the school’s style of play was unorthodox, no one can argue with the results.
“When we entered the season, there were a lot of question marks about how Zoom’s team would hold up,” sportswriter Peter Gammons says. “But when every collegiate baseball player in the country transferred in, we knew they’d be somewhat of a powerhouse.”
Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, players were quick to hop on the Zoom bandwagon, seeing it as the only viable option to continue their collegiate careers.
“Once the season was officially cancelled, scouting prospects became a lot more difficult,” Tigers scouting director Scott Pleis says. “But we actually took a page from the Majors and transferred to MLB the Show, where we input stats for all college players and simulated their season. From that sample, Torkelson was the obvious choice.”
While no one was surprised that Torkelson was taken with the first pick, many were taken aback when he was announced as a third baseman after playing at first throughout college.
“I think we’re moving into an era where positions are more flexible than ever,” Pleis explains. “When no one is allowed on the field at the same time, we don’t think it matters much where exactly we put him on the diamond.”