Austin Martin is a highly-regarded prospect and has been since well before he was drafted 5th overall by Toronto in 2020. Many evaluators even saw Martin as the top hitter of the entire draft. He was arguably the most talented prospect to change jerseys at this year’s deadline as well. Making it all the more incredible is the Twins not only received Martin in their Berrios deal, but also another top 100 prospect in right handed pitcher Simeon Woods-Richardson. It seemed too good to be true at the time, and it may be worthwhile to consider how the Twins talked the Blue Jays into parting with a player who was drafted 5th overall just a year ago.
In his senior season at Vanderbilt, Austin Martin struck out just twice in 69 plate appearances against some of the best collegiate pitching in the country. It set him apart from the typical college masher as a savant when it came to bat-to-ball skills. Such a skillset comes with a high floor which is likely why Toronto was aggressive enough to assign Martin to AA in his professional debut in 2021.
His 2021 season hasn’t been a complete disaster, but it has raised some eyebrows. Martin has struck out over 20% of the time which was an outcome not many scouts saw coming. Some attribute it to his passive approach which while leading him to a near 15% walk rate, may also get him unnecessarily deep into counts that he can’t battle his way out of. Martin may need to find a happy medium between drawing his walks and being just aggressive enough to take advantage of hittable pitches early in counts.
Impacting the Baseball:
You typically hear of prospects “flashing plus power”, whereas Martin has been cited to flash average power. Given his eye at the plate and impressive bat-to-ball skills, the Twins won’t need him to become a 40 home run hitter in order to be a success. That being said, his .383 slugging % in 2021 paired with an 8 mph drop in average exit velocity has been enough to cause worry among some scouts. It’s easier to develop power as a player ages than it is elite contact ability, and the Twins will be counting on Martin to do so to some extent as he continues to inch closer to the Major League level.
By almost all accounts, Martin is not the Twins shortstop of the future. While athletic and soft handed, his arm may be lacking for the most important position in the infield. While listed as a shortstop, he played third base for much of his senior year before being moved to center field due to throwing issues by year’s end. Scouts have yet to come to much of a conclusion in regards to Austin Martin the center fielder.
The Twins will surely get a closer look at their new top two prospect at shortstop, but don’t be surprised to see them pivot to trying him as an heir to the center field position in the case of a Buxton departure. A player of such a skillset just doesn’t slot in well to the traditionally power-heavy corner positions in the outfield. Such a lack of clarity on a defensive future is enough to rub some of the prospect shine away on a 22 year old.
Austin Martin is certainly an incredibly exciting prospect and one that isn’t too far off from the Majors in all likelihood. There are further questions that have been raised in the last year about his ceiling however that without a doubt contributed to the Twins ability to receive both him and a highly-regarded pitching prospect.
The front office admitted they were enormous fans of Martin during the 2020 draft but had no shot at drafting him. While his stock hasn’t crashed, Falvine and company have bought relatively low on a prospect that caught their eye a year ago and now have the opportunity to develop a possible cornerstone of the next great Minnesota Twins team. Can the Twins come out on the winning end of the gamble they made on trading away their home grown ace?