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It's probably time to end the Austin Martin experiment at shortstop


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Sorry, the page just froze up on me.  Yeah, Martin is NOT a SS.  We have Correa (hopefully for 3 years) and Lewis and even Miller.  It's time to start moving Martin around to make him either our LF'er of the future or our next Arraez (super utility type player) with a better glove than Arraez.

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I would not close the door on SS based on error numbers. There are several examples of eventually successful players making errors at SS in the minors. He has only played 69 games there.

I might read the numbers differently. They have an athletic player who has been shown a steady glove at other positions. Is it possible he can bring that to SS? The footwork and getting your body in position to make a good throw is unlike any other position. Give it time.

 

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53 minutes ago, jorgenswest said:

I would not close the door on SS based on error numbers. There are several examples of eventually successful players making errors at SS in the minors. He has only played 69 games there.

I might read the numbers differently. They have an athletic player who has been shown a steady glove at other positions. Is it possible he can bring that to SS? The footwork and getting your body in position to make a good throw is unlike any other position. Give it time.

 

I think my bigger concern is that he was moved off SS in college as well because he couldn't field/throw well enough for it. Playing SS would obviously make him more valuable, but sometimes it's just not meant to be and we could turn him into a far better OFer and just let him get comfortable out there instead of bashing our heads against the wall trying to force him into a spot that almost nobody has thought he could play since before he was drafted.

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After watching him a lot last year, I couldn't agree more. He's a good prospect who does many things well but just isn't a SS. In my opinion, he lacks the necessary arm strength and accuracy to play there, leading to a lot of rushed plays and wild throws.

I also don't think the Twins do Austin any favors by forcing him into a position he doesn't look comfortable at. It would be one thing if he was only below average and not considered good enough for the majors. But at this point you hold your breath on every routine grounder and I imagine that has to really mess with his entire game from a mental standpoint. I would prefer it if he could just play outfield and focus on his hitting instead of always having to worry about his defense at short.

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From the beginning I was convinced that he wasn't a SS. At SS he's beyond his limits, and suggested that he should be playing OF. Now that Celestino & Gordon have been coming into their own and the log jam at 3B & 2B despite his flexiblity (one thing that I really value) it makes him available for trade options. 

I've also advocated for Palacio to be a future MLB SS back up. I think his defense is pretty good and his hitting has came around since rejoining the Twins. Another reason for Lewis to stay up with the club is it gives Palacio more time at SS

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2 hours ago, TopGunn#22 said:

I agree.  He's destined to be the Twins LF'er

Not if his power numbers don't pick up, in my book.  He's starting to look like a tweener, without the elite skills for an up the middle position, not enough homers to be an asset in a corner.  If his best position turns out to be 2B, well we have a few good ones of those, and I'm not sure it's a position of need for very many other organizations either.  So I'm not sure he's even the monster trade chip we thought he was for a while there - Spencer Steer might fetch more.

I think jorgenswest is right about the errors not being how to measure a SS prospect.  Though at this point I have to think his chances are low, like 20 percent.  Arm strength was Polanco's perennial bugaboo at short and they finally had to move him.  But even at SS Martin's blocked potentially by a couple of guys, depending on how things play out with them respectively.

Nice problem to have of course.

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54 minutes ago, chpettit19 said:

I think my bigger concern is that he was moved off SS in college as well because he couldn't field/throw well enough for it. Playing SS would obviously make him more valuable, but sometimes it's just not meant to be and we could turn him into a far better OFer and just let him get comfortable out there instead of bashing our heads against the wall trying to force him into a spot that almost nobody has thought he could play since before he was drafted.

Was he moved off? He didn’t play there. In his first year they had Connor Kaiser who drafted in the third round. He wasn’t moved off then. Ethan Paul was the 2B when he was a freshman and Paul moved to SS when Kaiser left. Paul was drafted in the 9th round. He wasn’t moved off then. Are you sure about the narrative that he was moved off? Isn’t it possible that they had older players already there that were more ready to play SS? College isn’t about developing a player. Vanderbilt needs to win. The minors are about development. 

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I doubt his future is at SS, though I don't think you need to rule it out at the minor league level (which as many have pointed out is about development). Still, if I were him, I'd probably lobby for games at the other spots, especially 2nd or OF where he could absolutely crack an MLB roster.

As long as MLB keeps up with a soft/humidored ball (which admittedly could end tomorrow), Martin's elite on-base skills, and blazing speed can help anybody. (See Arraez's impact in this year's dead-ball MLB.) Singles and walks have a way of turning into doubles and triples with Martin, and he'd be a devastating 10th inning runner off the bench.

But I don't see any of it happening for the Twins this year, so step him to AAA at some point, prep him for us or for a trade, and don't overthink the whole "blocked" thing. Correa is probably gone after this year, Polanco just had another small procedure on his oft-injured ankles, nobody seems sure about the future of 3B, and although there is promise, there is plenty of outfield starts in question (will Larnach keep hitting?, can Alex stay healthy?, does Gordon lock down a spot?, how many games can Byron actually play?, is Kepler really back? have we seen the last of Cave?). (That last one was just thrown in to irk readers. Including me. Man, I hope so.)

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21 minutes ago, jorgenswest said:

Was he moved off? He didn’t play there. In his first year they had Connor Kaiser who drafted in the third round. He wasn’t moved off then. Ethan Paul was the 2B when he was a freshman and Paul moved to SS when Kaiser left. Paul was drafted in the 9th round. He wasn’t moved off then. Are you sure about the narrative that he was moved off? Isn’t it possible that they had older players already there that were more ready to play SS? College isn’t about developing a player. Vanderbilt needs to win. The minors are about development. 

Fine, not moved off, but couldn't play it. He was the #5 pick in the draft. If he could play SS he would've been playing SS at Vandy and not bouncing all over the field. I'm sure it's happened, but it's hard to find an example of a kid who wasn't good enough to be the SS on his college team, but is good enough to be the SS on a major league team. Players don't often move up the defensive spectrum from college to the minors to the majors.

Was it worth a shot? Sure. But how long are they going to mess with trying to make him a SS when he wasn't good enough to do it in college and hasn't been good enough to do it in the pros? They've said he's good enough to defend in the OF right now. To me it makes sense to just put him out there and let him perfect that while he concentrates more on his hitting since his bat is what got him drafted #5 overall and why they traded for him. It's not some great indictment of Martin that he can't play short. Most guys can't. It was a long shot to start and it feels like the experiment has run it's course.

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5 minutes ago, chpettit19 said:

If he could play SS he would've been playing SS at Vandy and not bouncing all over the field.

Isn’t possible that Vanderbilt had more than one guy who could play SS and they chose the established played? How is that evidence that he couldn’t play SS?

 

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Austin Martin has profiled as a second baseman now for a while. He doesn't have the arm to play on the far side of the infield, he doesn't have the range to play center field and he's at a big disadvantage when it comes to power vs. prototypical corner outfielders and first base or DH. Obviously, he has no catcher skills. That leaves 2B, but he can't be booting balls left and right there, either.

Martin has 11 errors in 24 games (22 started) at shortstop this year.

  • 4/8 = 2 errors, 1 fielding, 1 throwing.
  • 4/10 = 1 error, throwing.
  • 4/13 = 1 error, fielding
  • 4/22 = 1 error, fielding
  • 4/27 = 1 error, fielding
  • 5/12 = 1 error, fielding
  • 5/14 = 1 error, throwing
  • 5/22 = 1 error, fielding
  • 5/27 = 2 errors, 1 fielding, 1 throwing

Unfortunately, it's not a mental thing like a case of the yips airmailing baseballs. It seems like we've got some serious rock hands going on and it was a problem when he was with Toronto as well. That said, there are good reasons players might have elevated error rates. Trevor Plouffe was asked to learn to field at the shortstop position after he was promoted to MLB. Plouffe was passive, waiting for balls to come to him when he arrived in the big show and he was pushed hard to adapt his defense to be far more aggressive, charging balls, fielding bare handed and throwing on the run or off balance as needed to excel at SS. Learning a totally new way to field is bound to create a lot of errors.

I'm sure the Twins' coaching staff is taking notes and they'll present their findings and recommendations to management based on what they're asking Martin to change. Maybe he just has rock hands or maybe he's learning on the job. Either way, Martin was always a long shot at short.

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The Twins probably have no worries about Martin being able to handle playing LF. But if they can keep him at SS and project him there, his value clearly goes up (in the trade market).

I’m not a huge believer in the “tweener” concept. Not every player is five tool. Martin is clearly three/four (depending on your view of his arm - it may not be elite, but it is more than satisfactory) and two of his tools (hitting for average/OBP and speed are elite). Honestly, how many prospects do we have that are solid four tool players with two elite tools?

So is Arraez a “tweener” because he can’t hit for power but still plays 1B?  Well, I’d say give me the two possible leaders in MLB OBP with one having elite sped at the top of our order any day and I don’t care if they have to more than adequately play a position that usually is reserved for a strike out prone, 0.325 OBP, lumbering 25 jacks/year guy.

Martin should be in our lineup by mid 2023 alongside Arraez - with both players hitting top three in the order - “tweener” label be damned.


 

 

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36 minutes ago, jorgenswest said:

Isn’t possible that Vanderbilt had more than one guy who could play SS and they chose the established played? How is that evidence that he couldn’t play SS?

 

He was the best player on the team his junior year. Maybe the best player in the country. If he could play SS he would've been playing SS. You named 2 guys who played there his freshman and sophomore years who got drafted. Makes sense that he wasn't the guy those years. If he could play SS he would've played SS his junior year when he was drafted #5 overall. In fact they started a freshman over him his junior year. He was the established player and they started a true freshman over him at SS on a team with national title hopes. I think that says a lot.

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Here is what Tim Corbin said about shortstop just prior to the draft in 2020.

Quote

But can he play shortstop? Corbin said he’s answered that question “critically” for evaluators.

“I think if given time to do anything and he’s put in that spot, he’s going to be able to play it and he’s going to be able to play it well,” Corbin said. “He wasn’t really given the time to do a whole lot of things here outside of play third base and center field. I wouldn’t put anything by him because I know his [makeup]. If I was on a cliff and you say, ‘What position’s he playing?’ I’d say you can put him in center field today and he would benefit your team, but I think there’s a lot of dimensions to his game defensively.”

The Twins are giving him the time. They have time. His options clock starts in 2024. I am not suggesting they go beyond this season. I also would not use error totals to make a decision 69 games in.

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I tend to agree with those who have commented that a guy having a ton of errors early on in a career does not necessarily indicate a lack of defensive ability.  That being said, this organization sure seems to have a lot of guys who can either hit for power, hit for average or command a particular defensive position but few that can do all three. 

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5 hours ago, ashbury said:

Not if his power numbers don't pick up, in my book.  He's starting to look like a tweener, without the elite skills for an up the middle position, not enough homers to be an asset in a corner.  If his best position turns out to be 2B, well we have a few good ones of those, and I'm not sure it's a position of need for very many other organizations either.  So I'm not sure he's even the monster trade chip we thought he was for a while there - Spencer Steer might fetch more.

I think jorgenswest is right about the errors not being how to measure a SS prospect.  Though at this point I have to think his chances are low, like 20 percent.  Arm strength was Polanco's perennial bugaboo at short and they finally had to move him.  But even at SS Martin's blocked potentially by a couple of guys, depending on how things play out with them respectively.

Nice problem to have of course.

I think if he hits .280 - .300 and has an OBP over .400, he can be fine in LF. Last time I looked he has OBP .377 and 18/20 SB. But there’s also a major glut in LF with Gordon, Larnach, Lewis. 

I don’t think Lewis plays 3B when the Twins have probably the best defensive 3B in the league. Oh, and then there’s Kirilloff.

I kinda think Lewis could get enough AB at all 3 OF position, 2B and DH. We’ll see how it all plays out.

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I 100% agree with every single comment regarding a young prospect being moved off their position...SS in this particular argument...too soon or to pay too much attention to BOTH milb error numbers or early ML error numbers. In the past few years, through debates of various players...a ton of Lewis debates to be sure...I've posted error totals for a NUMBER of HIGH QUALITY ML players who were great, All Star, and even HOF worthy, who posted high error totals before becoming the players they turned out to be. Are there exceptions? You bet! If you spend the time to look as I have you will some tremdous defensive players at SS...as well as 3B...who had low error numbers at every stop along the way, including at the ML level. But you would be surprised at what you would see if you dug a little and looked. But I don't want to digress too much here.

Martin is a great athlete. Just being real, the Jay's, and now the Twins, said "why not" when looking at his abilities and potential. Since being drafted, this is his SECOND professional season and he's only a couple months in! Fanfare and top 100 projection lists hype can do a lot to skew perspective. There is no good reason to take a very talented athlete, so early in his career, and just say he can't develop and won't get better. Doesn't mean he will develop in to a future GG winner, but doesn't mean he can't be good/solid at the spot.

HOWEVER, despite all that I've stated, I do believe some guys, no matter how talented and athletic they are, just don't "fit" at certain positions. For example, as amazing a talent and athlete as Buxton is, there are reasons he plays CF and not SS. For those old enough to remember, changing positions, Gary Gaetti was a pretty good athlete with a rocket arm but hands of stone. Well, those hands of stone got really soft after a few more years at the ML level and he became an excellent defender at the hot corner. 

Again, I've never believed that you take a prospect off their position too early because they may grow tremendously over a few years. And at worst, they may turn out better elsewhere but will have the versatility to cover a spot. Think Polanco and his transition. The FO, scouts, and milb coaches may see Martin still growing and having the ability to be a viable, solid SS. If that's the case, and they really believe that, then keep working him there, at least part of the time. Never know what you might get!

But please, let all parties be honest. If the Twins really question his overall ability and instincts to stick there, then start to make the move. 

Martin reminds me so much of Alex Gordon, former Husker All American and top draft choice 3B with the Royals who, for whatever reason, couldn't transition his defense and offense together to the ML level. But he became a GG winner in LF, an All Star as I recall, a versatile offensive force, and a pain in the ass for the Twins for years. I believe Martin is going to the LF of the future. I believe he will play great defense, cover CF, maybe be able to cover 3B/2B as well if needed, and  be a great hitter with contact and high OB% with speed. I don't know how much, or to what degree, but pop/power will come. (Larnach moves to RF eventually, FWIW). 

I just feel this is what is going to happen. And I think at least a partial position adjustment should start taking place.

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I would guess that he sticks at SS through the trade deadline.  He maybe a prospect the front office will look at as a movable piece and SS have a considerable amount of value then a LFer or 2B. 

 

If he sticks with the Twins they will likely promote him to AAA and begin to move him around to prepare him for the Nick Gordon/Arraez role later in the season and in 2023

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