Blue Jays: Don’t read much into Austin Martin’s position right now
While the Blue Jays have had Austin Martin taking ground balls at third base so far, don’t read too much into any position he’s playing this month.
I have to hand it to Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro, as a few years ago they talked about the value of defensive flexibility, and how they wanted that to be a focus of rebuilding this roster. If you take a look around the organization, they’ve pretty much done just that.
The Blue Jays have been fairly reluctant to name a specific position for any of their young players, ironically with the except of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. staying at third base until last week, and it’s given them a lot of flexibility with how they build the roster. We’ve already seen Lourdes Gurriel Jr. make a position switch, and the conversation has come up with others like Cavan Biggio and even Bo Bichette. The message seems to be that the club is going to do what’s best for the collective, which is generally how things should go.
With all of that in mind, I don’t think there’s much sense in any of us analyzing what happens with Austin Martin over the last week or two here, especially when it comes to where he appears on the diamond.
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The fifth pick in last month’s MLB draft took some ground balls at third base yesterday, and you can hardly blame fans for wanting to put two and two together. With Vlad Jr. having moved over to focus on first base, suddenly the long-term picture at the hot corner has some question marks. For now it’ll be a spot occupied by Travis Shaw, provided he’s healthy, but the Blue Jays look through pretty much everything with a long-term lens these days, and it’s hard to imagine Shaw sticking around for more than a year or two.
Could Martin be the third baseman of the future in Toronto? Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean that it’s likely. The 21-year-old was drafted and announced as a shortstop, but he never actually played the position at Vanderbilt University. He split his time between first, second, and third base in 2019, with the latter being his primary position, but then made 12 of his 16 starts this season in the outfield.
The Blue Jays may very well like him at third base and see that as his ultimate landing spot, but I’m willing to bet they’ll explore the option of having him become a primary outfielder first. It’s a much greater position of need for the organization, both because of the lack of high-end outfield prospects in the system, and because of the other talented infielders in the pipeline. The idea of having someone like Jordan Groshans pegged for third over the long-term makes a lot more sense to me, and if that doesn’t work out there are others like Orelvis Martinez, or Miguel Hiraldo who look like potential stars in the future.
Going back to the positional flexibility, we can’t rule out that Martin could end up at second base, or even at shortstop. Perhaps it’s Biggio that the team feels is better suited to transition to the outfield on a more full-time basis, and Bichette even showed a willingness to discuss a change of position over the winter, when the team was reportedly looking at free agents.
Add it all up and until Martin arrives at the highest level, which likely won’t happen until 2021 at the earliest, there’s not much point in worrying about where he’ll line up on the diamond. Personally, I hope the Blue Jays continue to develop him as an outfielder as he was in 2020 before baseball was shut down, but I can’t blame anyone for keeping options on the table as well. Let’s just not read too much into it right now.