Spencer Torkelson has had an incredible career with the Sun Devils, and he could top the icing on the cake this season by helping Arizona State get back to Omaha. If he can do that, the Devils will be back to national prominence, similar to the clout they carry into 2020 as the No. 9 rank in D1Baseball.com's preseason top 25.
Below are a few facts to consider when breaking down the 2020 Arizona State club:
2019 record: 38-19 (16-13 Pac-12)
Coach (record at school): Tracy Smith (155–129 in 5 seasons)
Ballpark: Phoenix Municipal Stadium (8,000)
Postseason history: 40 regionals (active streak: 1), 22 CWS trips (last in 2010)
ASU FALL REPORT: How the Sun Devils are preparing for the 2020 season
In this preview of Arizona State's 2020 season, we've graded the Devils in each characteristic of the game: Hitting, power, speed, defense, starting pitching, bullpen and experience/intangibles. But before we begin, let's present our projected lineup for Arizona State in 2020.
Arizona State's projected lineup
|C||Sam Ferri, RS-Jr.||.261/.321/.385||2||24||0|
|1B||Spencer Torkelson, Jr.||.351/.446/.707||23||66||1|
|2B||Drew Swift, Jr.||.265/.375/.333||0||20||1|
|3B||Gage Workman, Jr.||.330/.413/.528||8||42||9|
|SS||Alika Williams, Jr.||.333/.429/.474||4||53||9|
|LF||Trevor Hauver, Jr.||.339/.433/.574||13||50||0|
|CF||Sean McLain, Fr.||FR--Tustin, Calif. (Beckman)|
|RF||Myles Denson, Sr.||.292/.354/.416||0||11||0|
|DH||Hunter Jump, Jr.||Transfer--Central Arizona College|
Arizona State's weekend rotation/closer
|SP #1||Justin Fall, Jr.||Transfer--Brookdale (N.J.) College|
|SP #2||Cooper Benson, Fr.||Freshman--San Luis Obispo, Calif. (HS)|
|SP #3||Boyd Vander Kooi, Jr.||4-4||5.59||95||85||39||0|
|Closer||RJ Dabovich, Jr.||3-2||4.75||53||47||26||3|
Grading the Sun Devils: Just as scouts grade prospects using the 20-80 scouting scale, we use a 20-80 scale to evaluate teams in our top 25. A score of 50 in each category is average, relative to a typical NCAA tournament team; 55 is slightly above-average; 60 is above-average (plus); 70 is well above-average (plus-plus); 80 is top of the scale, historically strong. Accordingly, 45 is fringe-average or slightly below-average; 40 is below-average; 30 is well below-average; and 20 is the extreme in that direction.
The Sun Devils will again have one of the nation’s premier offensive lineups.
Everyone talks about Spencer Torkelson, and for good reason. Tork had a monstrous sophomore campaign, hitting .351 with 17 doubles, 23 home runs and 66 RBIs. Simply ridiculous numbers.
With that said, there’s more to this lineup than just Tork doing Tork things. Gage Workman (.330) is back for more this season, while shortstop Alika Williams took some serious offensive strides during the fall and is ready to build on last season’s .333 batting average with more power production. Trevor Hauver (.339) is back for more this season and looks to cut down on his strikeouts (53 last season), while Myles Denson provides a veteran presence and Sam Ferri and Drew Swift are expected to take sizable steps forward offensively. Ferri, if he can stay healthy, has some power production and consistency in him, while Swift, though known more for his defensive prowess in the past, showed marked improvement with the bat during the fall.
The additions of Sean McLain and Hunter Jump should provide dividends, too. McLain is an athletic guy who just always seems to find the ball with the barrel, while Jump took a year sabbatical at a junior college and is back ready to do some damage. He can go gap to gap with the bat and will be a top to middle of the order type of bat.
ASU finished last season with a .310 batting average, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if it bests that mark this spring.
Arizona State won’t be quite what it was last season from a power standpoint, but it will be close with the return of Spencer Torkelson and others.
Tork is the top returning power hitter in college baseball, hitting 17 doubles with 23 home runs last season, while outfielder Trevor Hauver and third baseman Gage Workman each have big-time power potential. Hauver finished last season with double digit home runs and Workman had eight big flies.
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Also keep an eye on Williams and Jump from a power standpoint. Williams hasn’t exactly been known for his power in the past, but the talented shortstop has increased his strength, thus more power is being generated off his bat. Meanwhile, Jump is a leadoff hitter type who showed some sneaky pop and power potential during the fall. There’s also Ferri, who doesn’t have big-time power, but who has enough pop to run a few balls into the gaps and out of the ballpark.
Arizona State will have some athleticism at its disposal this spring, but this is certainly not a team that is going to wow anyone from that standpoint.
Williams and Workman are both back for more this season, and the two combined for 18 stolen bases last season. The lone double-digit base stealer from last season — Hunter Bishop — is no longer with the program and is now in the professional ranks.
Drew Swift is another above average runner to watch in the lineup. He can make things happen with his legs and will certainly be a bit more versatile this season. Meanwhile, Jump is an athletic guy who can make things happen, too. There’s a chance he begins the season atop the lineup in the leadoff role. Myles Denson has average speed that can be an asset, and freshman Sean McLain has athleticism and speed to use to his advantage.
Again, this team won’t blow you away with speed, but there are some guys who can assert themselves in that department.
The key to winning championships and getting to the College World Series is playing excellent defense, and the Sun Devils should have that covered this spring.
Behind the plate, the Devils have an excellent defender in Ferri. He needs to stay healthy, and that has been an issue in the past. But when he’s healthy, the hard-nosed veteran will show a strong and accurate arm with elite receiving skills.
ASU might just have the nation’s best middle infield from a defensive standpoint. What Swift may not have from an offensive standpoint he more than makes up for with his elite defensive skills. Meanwhile, Williams is a vacuum at shortstop with elite actions and instincts. He and Swift make up a terrific double play combo.
Gage Workman also is a strong defender, and could play up the middle if need to, while in the outfield, Hauver is serviceable in left, Denson has a good arm in right and McLain, a freshman, is an aggressive defender with an impressive ability to track down balls.
The defense should be rock solid for the Devils.
Starting pitching: 55
The Sun Devils have a renewed sense of confidence on the mound this season with the addition of pitching coach Jason Kelly. They also have some nice pieces to work with from a personnel standpoint.
Junior college transfer left-hander Justin Fall has a chance to be the Friday night starter. Fall is a 6-foot-6, 245-pounder, who surprised the coaches with a premium arm this past fall, sitting 92-94 and up to 95-96 mph with his fastball, along with a quality changeup and slider. Tracy Smith is cautiously optimistic. After all, he wants to see how he performs before drawing conclusions. But big upside is there.
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Freshman right-hander Cooper Benson, as of now, is slated to be in the weekend rotation. Benson, too, had a huge fall with advanced pitchability for a young pitcher. He’ll sit upper 80s with his fastball, along with a very good changeup and quality breaking ball. He’s a competitive lefty who is not afraid to go after hitters.
For now, look for junior righty Boyd Vander Kooi to be in the weekend rotation. Vander Kooi has a legitimate four-pitch mix and has shown flashes of being a premium arm at times. However, he needs to be more consistent this spring. He will sit 89-91 and up to 92 mph with his fastball, along with a quality breaking ball and improved changeup. There’s also Saint Mary’s transfer Tyler Thornton. Thornton was just OK during the fall, but clearly has a premium arm with a fastball up to 92-93 mph along with a solid slider and changeup — both swing and miss offerings.
The Devils could have a very good bullpen if all the pieces come together.
The clear headliner for this bullpen is right-hander RJ Dabovich. Dabovich did some good things for the Devils last season but become more of a brand name this past summer with a strong showing at the Cape Cod League. He has feel for four pitches and showed a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s over the summer.
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Left-hander Erik Tolman is another quality option in the bullpen. Tolman got his feet wet in an important role last season and showed improvements this past fall. He sits in the upper-80s with his fastball and showed improved command in the fall.
Will Levine, Blake Burzell and Cam Dennie are other quality options to watch.
Levine is a 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, who impressed the coaching staff in the fall with a fastball up to 96 mph, along with good overall stuff, while Burzell was up to 93-95 mph with his fastball, but was inconsistent at times last season. He could be a premier arm if he shows consistency. Then there’s Dennie, the freshman, who has easy arm action and who was 89-91 and up to 92 mph with his fastball this past fall, along with a quality slider.
There’s not huge margin for error with this group, but there are plenty of talented options.
The Sun Devils have been a work in progress the past couple of seasons. They took a step forward last season by getting off to an incredible start. However, reality finally hit, and the Devils weren’t quite as strong down the stretch.
With that said, they still had a good but not great year. ASU reached the NCAA tournament, where it was eliminated by Southern Mississippi in excruciating fashion, particularly from a pitching standpoint. ASU went out this past summer and hired one of the brightest pitching minds in the game in Washington’s Jason Kelly.
ASU will get a boost from Kelly’s addition, its experience on the mound and certainly a plethora of experience from an offensive standpoint. But still, it must find a way to put all the pieces together in a year everyone expects them to be back to national prominence.