We continue our ‘Statistically Speaking’ series of articles, as today we take a look at the top first baseman in the NCAA this past season.
Best NCAA First Baseman of 2020
In case you missed our last ‘Speaking Statistically’ article on the top NCAA catchers, check it out now. With that said, let’s take a look at which first baseman stood out in 2020.
All About Torkelson
There wasn’t a first baseman who received more attention in the NCAA this year than Arizona State’s Spencer Torkelson. The 6’1”, 220 lb. slugger lived up to the hype, as Torkelson recorded a .340/.598/.780 slash line during the shortened season. The power-hitting Torkelson finished 2020 tied for sixth in home runs (6) and led all NCAA first baseman in OPS (1.378) and ISO (.440). But perhaps the most eye-popping statistic from Torkelson’s 2020 was his SO/BB ratio, as the 20-year old walked 31 times (yes, you read that correctly) in 17 games while striking out 15 times. With his elite bat speed, he’ll strike out a lot, but his elite discipline makes up for his swing-and-miss woes.
While it would have been nice to see if Torkelson and a stacked Arizona State team could make a run at the 2020 College World Series title (ASU finished 2020 with a 13-4 record), Torkelson has done more than enough in his three college seasons to solidify his draft stock. Torkelson has the best bat in the 2020 MLB Draft, and there’s a good chance that this will be the second year in a row that a Pac-12 player goes at #1.
ACC First Baseman Shined in 2020
Among qualified NCAA hitters, 37 first baseman finished with an OPS of 1.000 or greater. Seven of those first basemen were from the ACC, with North Carolina’s Aaron Sabato (1.186) leading the charge. Sabato smashed 18 home runs in 2019 en route to winning the ACC Freshman of the Year award, and he continued where he left off this past spring. The 20-year old switch-hitter pounded seven more home runs (tied for second in NCAA among first baseman) in 2020. The New York native also finished 2020 in the top five in ISO among qualified first baseman.
Highest ISO Among #NCAA 1B (Div. I) in 2020:
1. #ASU – Spencer Torkelson (.440)
2. #Gamecocks – Wes Clarke (.428)
3. #ND – Niko Kavadas (.418)
4. #UNC – Aaron Sabato (.416)
5. #Evansville – Tanner Craig (.414)
6. #Portland – Tracye Tammaro (.400)
— New Baseball Media (@NewBBMedia) May 20, 2020
Sabato’s bat could get him drafted in the first round this year, but his questionable fielding ability may cause him to drop to Day 2.
Here’s a look at other notable performances by first baseman in the ACC this year:
|Austin Murr||NC State||.306||1.099||3||12|
|Jack Cunningham||Boston College||.424||1.054||2||5|
|Alex Toral||Miami (FL)||.296||1.028||5||6|
|Drew Compton||Georgia Tech||.321||1.009||3||8|
|Niko Kavadas||Notre Dame||.255||1.006||7||9|
Even though 2020 was a banner year for ACC first baseman, there was one player who was expected to put up big numbers at the cold corner this past season, but didn’t. Wake Forest’s Bobby Seymour, who recorded a slash line of .377/.439/.576 slash line in 2019, put up an OPS of just .745 in 2020 and a measly .089 ISO. Despite the poor numbers, the Wake Forest junior could still get drafted in 2020 thanks to his plus hit tool, but the new five-round format won’t do Seymour any favors.
Tennessee Tech’s Hinchman Impresses
Tennesse Tech’s Jason Hinchman may not be drafted this June thanks to the new MLB Draft format for 2020, but he was putting himself in a strong position to be selected prior to the stoppage of play. The junior first baseman, across 15 games, batted .414 (eighth in NCAA among qualified first baseman) and recorded an OPS of 1.278. Hinchman’s 2020 OPS was the third-best figure among first baseman, only finishing behind Maryland’s Maxwell Costes (1.370) and Spencer Torkelson.
The 21-year old, who made the All-OVC First Team in 2019, also performed well against premier competition. Back in February, Hinchman went 5 for 12 and hit one home run against #12 NC State in a February series. If Hinchman is not selected next month in the 2020 MLB Draft (or is not signed as a UDFA), OVC pitchers will, unfortunately, have to deal with him in 2021, and the 21-year old could be a great senior pickup for an MLB club come June 2021.
Don’t Forget About the SEC
The ACC saw some great performances from first baseman this past spring, but so did the SEC. Missouri redshirt junior first baseman Brandt Belk didn’t show off much pop in 2020 (5 XBH, .195 ISO in 13 games), but he did lead all NCAA Division I first baseman in batting average (.457). USC’s Wes Clarke, meanwhile, smashed eight extra-base hits in 16 games. All eight of those extra-base hits, by the way, were home runs, as Clarke lead the NCAA in home runs among first baseman.
And then there’s Tennessee’s Luc Lipcius. The senior first baseman smashed 10 extra-base hits (7 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR) in 2020, and finished the shortened season with the fifth-best OPS (1.199) in the nation.
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