Blue Jays: Looking at Austin Martin’s first week in professional baseball

DUNEDIN, FLORIDA - MARCH 13: Austin Martin #80 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on prior to the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles during a spring training game at TD Ballpark on March 13, 2021 in Dunedin, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, FLORIDA - MARCH 13: Austin Martin #80 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on prior to the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles during a spring training game at TD Ballpark on March 13, 2021 in Dunedin, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /

Last season, the Toronto Blue Jays had the fifth selection in the amateur draft after posting one of the worst records in 2019 at 67-95, with only four teams performing below the rebuilding organization. The 2020 amateur draft was organized differently due to COVID-19, with there only being five rounds compared to a normal 40 round process due to the financial strain of the shortened season having on organizations across the league.

Spencer Torkelson went to the Detroit Tigers at first overall with the Baltimore Orioles going with outfielder Heston Kjerstad in the second selection, a #10-12 ranked prospect who was selected to save cap space and sign other prospects in the later rounds by paying above slot value.

A few picks later, and one of the best college prospects when it comes to hitting was still on the board in Austin Martin, an infielder from Vanderbilt University that the Blue Jays selected and signed to just over 7 million dollars (in terms of a signing bonus).

Dubbed one of the best pure hitters in the draft last year, Martin has a knack for slashing across the entire field and can get good contact and solid power with his quick hands in the batter’s box. A right-handed hitter, Martin features a small leg kick in the box and has a great eye at the plate, with a short swing that can get the ball over the fence when he makes that solid contact.

Drafted by the Blue Jays as a shortstop, the consensus view appears that Martin may be headed to the outfield given his average arm strength, a move that he’s already experienced in college when he wasn’t able to handle the left side of the diamond. He committed a few errors early in the season at third base for the Commodores before being moved to center field until the season was ended prematurely due to COVID-19. Martin would spend what would have been his first season with the Blue Jays farm system at the alternate site, training under the guidance of the organization with the minor league season being canceled. He currently ranks as the Blue Jays #2 prospect and the #18 prospect in all of baseball.

In 2021, Martin was invited to the Blue Jays Spring Training camp and would feature in 13 games before being assigned to AA with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. The Fisher Cats season began on May 4th and so far have played eight games, currently sporting a 3-5 record.

For Martin, he has played in seven games and features a .160/.364/.320 slash line. In 25 at-bats, he has four hits with two doubles and one triple as well as two RBI, four walks, and eight strikeouts. He has primarily been used as the team’s leadoff hitter and sports a .684 OPS. The Florida native had a great start to the season, collecting two hits on Opening Day but has since fallen on hard times, going 2 for 21 since the first game of the season, and has not had a hit in three games. He has also been hit by a pitch four times this season.

Fielding-wise, Martin has split time between shortstop and centerfield, with the Florida native spending more time in the outfield (five games) compared to up the middle (two games). He played his first three games in the outfield before the two starts at short, committing a throwing error in his second game at the position before returning back to center field.

Considering the season is just over a week old, one should not be too concerned about his slash line just yet. He didn’t get into any game-type scenarios after being drafted last year and it isn’t surprising that he is hitting below the Mendoza line as he takes a few weeks to adjust to AA pitching. Pitchers will start to figure him out and he will have to adjust at the plate if he wants to get on base with all the video and statistical data out there working against him. A good example of this is that Martin has struck out eight times in his last four games after not recording a strikeout in his first three games.

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Defence wise, the center field position may be short-lived as the team signed George Springer to a six-year contract this past off-season and Springer seems to be destined for that role moving forward. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Martin move to a corner outfield position given his athletic ability and arm strength, as the left side of the diamond might not be suited for him given the errors he committed in college/Spring Training and the depth the Blue Jays have at third base and shortstop both on the active roster and in the farm system. Alternatively, Springer does have experience in right field if they feel Martin is more suited for center field duty.

Austin Martin is an exciting prospect to have in the organization, especially since there was a lot of speculation that he wouldn’t be available for the Blue Jays at the fifth spot in the draft last year. While I am sure he would like to be putting the bat on the ball more than he is right now, a few weeks of adjusting to AA pitching should see his average start to climb if he can carry over what he did in college to the professional level.

I don’t expect that he will be called upon this year in the major leagues given he lost half a season of last year and the Blue Jays are most likely not rushing him to the active roster given the current outfield scenario.

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If Martin can pull together a strong season in AA, he will most likely see a promotion to AAA either by the end of this year or to begin next season, with a 2022 estimated time of arrival in the big leagues being an accurate timeframe if he can produce similar to what made him so appealing in the draft last year.