Toronto Blue Jays Scout Day: All Eyes on Austin Martin
By Nick Prasad
The 2020 MLB Draft was unique and unprecedented, such as the times we’re currently in; however, for the Toronto Blue Jays, this brought a key piece of the future puzzle of this organization.
From March to May, I was on a wild hunt north of the border, keeping up with Ontario prospects while eyeing Baseball America and the names set to be heard in the first rounds. Scouts, advisors, and baseball operations personnel from across the league were quite anxious due to the short 5-rounder that was approaching.
I was advising on prospects and exploring scenarios that had the possibility of playing out; while I did this, Vanderbilt Baseball also had my attention.
June 10th, 2020, the Toronto Blue Jays selected shortstop, Austin Martin, out of Vanderbilt. I remembered being super anxious and restless that day; we had our guy eligible and patiently awaiting a name call.
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When I read Martin’s name in the draft tracker, I was in awe. Shock hit me lightly; I was surprised that three clubs passed on him. Either way, this was exciting. Martin had been on my top prospect favorites list for some time and I was glad that he was coming north of the border.
My report painted the kid to be the right fit for the current roster we have up in Toronto right now; overall, young raw talent with grinder mentality. He’s a name that would go well with the Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Cavan Biggio, and more!
The Vanderbilt superstar stands at 6ft, 185lbs with a slim athletic frame. His body style is almost identical to current Jays Shortstop, Bo Bichette. Martin is loose and agile from top to bottom, with clear evidence of quick-twitch muscle usage.
Martin has obvious advantages from the plate side to the base pads. His ability to put the ball between the lines and to get on base is a huge deal for any team looking to generate offence. Pitch recognition along with an understanding of counts and his opponent are factors towards his skill level with the bat.
Martin’s biggest disadvantage is his arm; which is not a dead-end issue. His arm strength is not overpowering, nor is it an issue. Martin is described as a utility player; his overall skill level has him in the top priority positions on the field as a defender. He’s able to field his position at an elite level; an MLB program can develop his arm to be more effective.
If you’re a manager of a team, you want this kid in your lineup and on your defensive alignment. I submitted a report on Toronto Blue Jays 2019 3rd round pick, Dasan Brown. I described Brown in that report as: “Any ball put in play by him is a threat to the defense; Brown’s tremendous speed forces the defense to make quick plays and forces errors”.
I can second that statement for Martin. Martin will spray all fields with the ability to pull, shoot up the middle, or go oppo. He forces you to throw to him; he will dig deep into counts, not afraid to go down 2 strikes while waiting for something of his liking, and if he doesn’t like the offering, he’ll put it into play anyway.
Once Martin gets on base, he creates a noticeable distraction for pitchers. He’s likely to run on any catcher 3 of every 5 times. When he puts the ball in play, he digs, forcing the defender to speed up their reaction, likely that defender could make an error.
Austin’s approach at the plate is quite interesting. He’s your typical leadoff stick with tremendous pitch recognition. He’s a contact hitter; he keeps his hands low ready to pull the trigger with the barrel of the bat, all while his chin beds on his shoulder, zoned all the way in. This all allows him to recognize spin or decent on a pitch.
In 2020, after a canceled season, his average looked to be .377. From 2018-2020 he slashed a combined .368 average with 4 HR, 76 RBI, and 43 stolen bases.
Defensively, Martin’s athletic ability, twitch-like antics, and quick feet allow him to compete. He has soft and quick hands, great at reading and tracking both balls on the ground and in the air, and covers a ton of ground. Martin is the ideal shortstop, takes leadership on the infield, and plays the hole very well. He’s also seen at 3rd base and most recently in the outfield, where I personally think he has more room to shine.
I compare Martin to his organizational teammate, Bo Bichette. I also compare him to former Boston Red Sox SS, Dustin Pedroia.
SCOUTING 20-80 Scale:
Martin is young and determined to climb the ranks of the organization; I look forward to seeing him gel with the rest of the kids up on 1 Blue Jays Way.