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  • Temp Check on Austin Martin


    Cody Pirkl

    Once drafted 5th overall in 2020, Austin Martin’s prospect stock has tumbled due to several ongoing concerns. What can we expect moving forward from what was once the main return in the Jose Berrios trade?

    Image courtesy of Ed Bailey, Wichita Wind Surge

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    Austin Martin was billed as a tremendous hitter with an unknown defensive future when he was taken 5th overall in the 2020 draft. Martin’s minor league career got off to a good but strange start offensively, and the defensive questions quickly grew before being traded to the Twins during the summer following his draft selection. A year and a half later, the Twins are left with more questions than answers.

    Martin was immediately placed in Double-A with Toronto due to what was seen as an advanced plate approach, and he rewarded them with a 133 wRC+ in his 56 games before being traded. His overall body of work looked like he not only belonged, but that he could shoot up the minors and debut in the MLB in short order. So why would Toronto trade such a player?

    Martin walked an incredible 14.8% of the time and only struck out 21.2% of the time with Toronto. His .281 batting average and .424 OBP were very impressive. If you’ve followed Twins prospects, however, you likely know the question with Martin was always his power. He slugged just .383 in his debut, a total power outage that was exacerbated by Toronto’s lack of belief in his ability to stick in the middle of the field defensively. He committed 10 errors in just 26 games at shortstop with Toronto before they started moving him around the diamond.

    The Twins saw an opportunity to buy a player who was losing the faith of the team that drafted him. They traded Jose Berrios for Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson. They gave Martin the keys to shortstop in Double-A and began attempting to retool his swing.

    In his year and a half in the Twins system, Martin’s prospect stock has declined significantly. After finishing 2021 similarly to how he started, Martin completely cratered in 2022. His slash line of .241/.367/.315 was 11% below league average in Double-A. He stole an impressive 34 bases in 90 games, but his walk rate didn’t reach 2021 levels and his power declined even further. He committed 18 errors at shortstop in just 70 games, and by year’s end, it appeared the Austin Martin shortstop experiment had come to an end. He had dealt with hand issues throughout the season which surely held him back to some extent, but his struggles dropped him out of any top 100 prospects list you can find.

    So what could Austin Martin’s future hold? Of note, he was sent to the Arizona Fall League to make up for lost time in 2022 and dominated to the tune of a .374/.454/.482 slash line, stealing 10 bases in just 21 games. It’s possible he was finally healthy and some of those swing changes finally showed themselves. If he can utilize his contact and walk ability and slug even .400, he’s likely to find himself at the door of the Major Leagues in short order at the age of 24. 

    Still, significant questions persist. The Twins have yet to find a position that Martin can play well after spending nearly all of 2022 coming to the conclusion that shortstop isn’t an option. A rational pivot would be to move him across the bag to second base. Unfortunately for Martin, it’s hard to see him finding everyday playing time there in the near future between Jorge Polanco and a mix of prospects such as Edouard Julien, Brooks Lee, etc. who have all blown past Martin in their development. He also doesn’t appear to be a great candidate for any corner infield or outfield spots due to his lack of power and overall questions offensively.

    Look for the Twins to give Martin some legitimate run in centerfield in 2023. He was always viewed as a freak athlete, and perhaps this would translate better on the grass than it did in the dirt. With players like Gilberto Celestino failing to grab ahold of the job to back up Buxton, Martin could carve out a role for himself quickly if the Twins like what they see. If he can rebound offensively he can have a role in MLB very soon. The longevity of his career and how consistently he’s in the starting lineup will depend on where he can settle in defensively.

    It’s hard to say Austin Martin’s time in Minnesota has not gone as planned, and his outlook is at an all-time low for his young career. For now, he’s no longer anywhere close to one of the Twins top prospects with so many questions to be answered in his overall game. Still, his Arizona Fall League offered a look at the talent he still possesses and it’s fair to hold out hope for a rebound in 2023 based on health alone. 

    Will 2023 be a rebound season for Martin? What level of MLB player do you think he’ll be at this point in his career? Let us know below!

     

     

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    I continue to have high hopes for Austin Martin. His success in the AFL brings to mind a couple other guys who flourished there—Eddie Rosario and Royce Lewis. Eddie made the big leagues the next year and has had a nice career while Lewis also hit the bigs but had his promising season ended early. 
     

    I have envisioned Martin as a speedy right-handed option in the outfield, capable of filling center field if needed, with the ability to play infield as well. 

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    With his deficiency at shortstop it just astounds me that they keep playing him at the position  and not try and develop him at a different  position  ...

    It just puzzles me that our FO and coaching don't do something about the obvious  , he isn't a defensive shortstop , to many errors in less than a 100 games ...

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    I think the ceiling may have dropped some on Martin because of the ongoing uncertainty of whether or not he will hit for power. But his contact skills, ability to draw walks (and get hit by pitches) will make him an effective offensive player. He seems unlikely to stick at SS, but would do well at 2B or any OF position. He's probably about average in CF and a plus guy in either corner because of his range. 

    Considering where the Twins are with stacks of LH OFs and Celestino's struggles at the plate, I think Martin might make a good option to cover for the inevitable Buxton injury and give options to add a RH bat in either corner. They'll still need to clean some things up with their OF (a few too many guys, maybe) but Martin could be a high average, high on-base guy with good speed and plus baserunning who could serve as an igniter at the top of the order or adding a weapon at the bottom of it, while giving good defense in the OF. Nick Gordon might have developed a better power stroke (for now), but Martin is the better defender already I think, and as a RH bat might be a better fit as a super-utility guy.

    Still like Martin, and thought he did well by himself in the AFL.

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    This reads similar to an article about Royce Lewis just a few years back. 

    One side comment - errors at the minor league level are not solid indicators of whether a player can actually succeed at a position. Lateral movement, reads, hands, reflexes, release, and arm are better indicators of future competence.

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    If his BA is high because he makes errors then that's not a good thing at all. But if he is a pure hitter then he'd be most useful being a DH. 

    It looked like he had a hole in his glove from the beginning. To me that means that he lacks some fundamental elements of fielding. If he can't kneel in front of a grounder and be willing to stop the ball with his chest then he won't ever be a good infielder.  

    If he's limited to being a hitting specialist then a DH is the best position for him. There's nothing wrong with that as long as the Twins have a need for him. 

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    Could Martin be the right hand hitting outfielder we have been needing? If he is able to back up Buxton and play one of the corners against left handed pitching along with the fact he can pinch run in the late innings if on the bench I could see a home for Martin mid season. 

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    Not saying he is a SS. But remember Derek Jeter"s first season in the minors. This kid is an athlete who can hit. take a walk and steal bases. Oh and he hits right handed. They will find a position for him, he will work at it and become MLB adequate or better.

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    1 hour ago, jmlease1 said:

    I think the ceiling may have dropped some on Martin because of the ongoing uncertainty of whether or not he will hit for power. But his contact skills, ability to draw walks (and get hit by pitches) will make him an effective offensive player. He seems unlikely to stick at SS, but would do well at 2B or any OF position. He's probably about average in CF and a plus guy in either corner because of his range. 

    Considering where the Twins are with stacks of LH OFs and Celestino's struggles at the plate, I think Martin might make a good option to cover for the inevitable Buxton injury and give options to add a RH bat in either corner. They'll still need to clean some things up with their OF (a few too many guys, maybe) but Martin could be a high average, high on-base guy with good speed and plus baserunning who could serve as an igniter at the top of the order or adding a weapon at the bottom of it, while giving good defense in the OF. Nick Gordon might have developed a better power stroke (for now), but Martin is the better defender already I think, and as a RH bat might be a better fit as a super-utility guy.

    Still like Martin, and thought he did well by himself in the AFL.

    This!

    Make him an outfielder so that he can have positional consistency which will allow him to be more comfortable and better focused to foster his development.

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    Still like this kid and remain hopeful he has a big 2023.

    One question.  It is known that the Twins 'tinkered' with his swing when he came over from Toronto.  Assume that was related to their wanting more power.  We also know that he had a bad 2022 at the plate, which may have been related to a hand injury.  He then had a great month in the AFL. 

    Does anyone know if he returned to his pre-tinkering swing in the AFL when away from Twins coaching?  Or did he not do anything different, other than being healthier?  I sure don't know, but an interesting question.

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    44 minutes ago, roger said:

    Still like this kid and remain hopeful he has a big 2023.

    One question.  It is known that the Twins 'tinkered' with his swing when he came over from Toronto.  Assume that was related to their wanting more power.  We also know that he had a bad 2022 at the plate, which may have been related to a hand injury.  He then had a great month in the AFL. 

    Does anyone know if he returned to his pre-tinkering swing in the AFL when away from Twins coaching?  Or did he not do anything different, other than being healthier?  I sure don't know, but an interesting question.

    I seem to remember an article stating just this. He had very little success with the changes and reverted to his natural swing in the AFL. Didn't Lewis do the same thing?

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    I think Martin profiles best in Center field if his defense is good there.  He doesn't have a great arm and that is why I don't think he is a good candidate for short.  The arm hurts him in center some too when there are deep balls hit to center.  Still he has speed, a good eye at the plate and is someone who can make contact so I think his value position (if he can play it well) is center.  Granted he has potential for super utility as well.

    If you read the article from the Athletic (subscription required) then it appears the Twins did ask him to tweak his approach to go with a power swing early in counts and then shorten up after two strikes.  Here are some excerpts from that article.

    "Before the start of the season, the Twins attempted to implement changes to Martin’s approach at the plate. The idea was that Martin — who has played a lot at shortstop but more likely profiles at second base and in center field — has such good bat-to-ball skills that he could sell out for power early in the count in an attempt to do more damage. Even if he didn’t come through, Martin is so good at hitting with two strikes that he could shorten up and still get on base enough to warrant the change."

    "But Martin recently told MLB Pipeline he used his time off to recalibrate. He created a new plan with his hitting coaches and started to get going again. Martin returned to action on Aug. 17 and, reverting to more of his old approach, finished with a solid September."

    So it is possible the Twins messed with his head too much. Hard to say but he does seem to be back to his normal self but without a ton of power.  I am still a believer in Martin in the "Nick Gordon" role.  Will have to wait and see how things turn out but this is a big year for Martin.

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    I don’t understand why “ having a position” and developing power is so important!
     Does Arraez have value?  Does Whit Merrifield have value?   

    If Martin can be a guy who can fill in at 3B and 2B along with the 3 outfield spots.  Can get on base with good ABs and steal bases (something that is much needed on the twins and from Rocco to let them run) 

    I just see lots of value there in those skills.  I know those skills aren’t sexy and so top prospect status falls off.

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    33 minutes ago, High heat said:

    I don’t understand why “ having a position” and developing power is so important!
     Does Arraez have value?  Does Whit Merrifield have value?   

    If Martin can be a guy who can fill in at 3B and 2B along with the 3 outfield spots.  Can get on base with good ABs and steal bases (something that is much needed on the twins and from Rocco to let them run) 

    I just see lots of value there in those skills.  I know those skills aren’t sexy and so top prospect status falls off.

    THIS!

    I believe the SS experiment is over, yes?

    He should be a primary LF/CF who's arm isn't great in RF, but he can sure cover the ground out there as well. As a former 3B/2B, there should be no reason he doesn't continue to get some reps there to increase his value to the team.

    He's athletic enough that some degree of power hitting should come naturally. And if he plays good defense, hits, gets OB, takes and steals XB, and can be a doubles machine with 14-15 ish HR power he'd be an outstanding ballplayer.

     

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    1 hour ago, USNMCPO said:

    I seem to remember an article stating just this. He had very little success with the changes and reverted to his natural swing in the AFL. Didn't Lewis do the same thing?

    I was going to state the same thing. Leave this kid's swing alone. Their tinkering IMO was the reason for Martin's funk. Also if it's known & it's proved that he has a problem to stick at SS why keep playing him there? Why not play him all over the OF, 2B & 3B? 

    Lewis needed to be played at SS in AFL but they played him at CF & 3B. Martin needed to be played in OF, 2B or 3B anywhere but SS, yet that's where they mainly played him. Martin proved that he can get on base & even with some power in AFL. My advice to him is to try to get out of the way of being hit by pitch, it's not worth it to get on base when you could get hurt & effect your play.

    Julien has yet proved that he can play MLB 2B and Lee profiles better at 3B. So Martin has a better chance there. Only problem is if we sign Correa & Lewis will become our INF utility player behind Farmer.

     

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    1 hour ago, High heat said:

    I don’t understand why “ having a position” and developing power is so important!
     

    To use an extreme example look at Aaron Judge vs Luis Arraez.  Judge can hit the ball out of the park. He walks a lot and he hits for a decent average.  He also plays above average defense at his position.  Which team would have more success a team full Arraez type players or Aaron Judge type players?  I think you know the answer.

    Since Arraez doesn't have power it doesn't mean he isn't valuable it just means he isn't as valuable as players who have close to his skills at the plate plus power.  If you are looking to make your team better you are looking for players that fill out the full spectrum of skill set and power is an important piece as with one swing you can change a game.

    In Summary encouraging players that make good contact to sell out for power can make them more valuable if they can do it. I would say developing power is very important in todays game and likely always will be.

     

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    2 hours ago, Dman said:

    To use an extreme example look at Aaron Judge vs Luis Arraez.  Judge can hit the ball out of the park. He walks a lot and he hits for a decent average.  He also plays above average defense at his position.  Which team would have more success a team full Arraez type players or Aaron Judge type players?  I think you know the answer.

    Since Arraez doesn't have power it doesn't mean he isn't valuable it just means he isn't as valuable as players who have close to his skills at the plate plus power.  If you are looking to make your team better you are looking for players that fill out the full spectrum of skill set and power is an important piece as with one swing you can change a game.

    In Summary encouraging players that make good contact to sell out for power can make them more valuable if they can do it. I would say developing power is very important in todays game and likely always will be.

     

    I agree.  Everything you stated is correct. But just to be fair, when building a roster, there is, obviously, room for players who aren't power plants, but merely good, and productive hitters. Guys who get OB, who can continue innings, advance runners, be clutch, etc. And Arraez is that kind of player. And I know you know this, I'm just stating the obvious.

    I think a comparison between Arraez and Gallo might be a better analogy. IF the Gallo we signed is the pre-2022 version, he is a K machine with low BA. But his OB and power makes him productive and dangerous with a career .794 OPS even including his horrific 2022. And he's over .800 pre 2022. Arraez, still in his mid 20's, through physical development and experience, has begun to develop some pop/power, though he will never be a powerful hitter. But he already has a career OPS of .784. And he was over .800 for much of 2022 until injuries affected him for part of the 2nd half of the season. AVG and OB only gets you so far. His ability to provide 40+ XB hits raises his total game, as well as total value for now, and the future.

    Martin is a very similar player to Arraez, but with much more speed. (Talking hitting, not defense). I've often thought, and commented, that I think Martin could be a RH version of Royal's great Alex Gordon...a little less HR power but probably a better AVG and OB version of him, with a little more speed. I see a ton of doubles, eventual mid teens HR power, double digit SB and maybe 20+, and hitting and getting OB while being a quality LF who can play a solid CF and can cover 2B/3B if and when you need him to. If even more power develops, that's a bonus. But he doesn't have to be a 20+HR hitter to be valuable and very good.

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    35 minutes ago, DocBauer said:

    I agree.  Everything you stated is correct. But just to be fair, when building a roster, there is, obviously, room for players who aren't power plants, but merely good, and productive hitters. Guys who get OB, who can continue innings, advance runners, be clutch, etc. And Arraez is that kind of player. And I know you know this, I'm just stating the obvious.

    I think a comparison between Arraez and Gallo might be a better analogy. IF the Gallo we signed is the pre-2022 version, he is a K machine with low BA. But his OB and power makes him productive and dangerous with a career .794 OPS even including his horrific 2022. And he's over .800 pre 2022. Arraez, still in his mid 20's, through physical development and experience, has begun to develop some pop/power, though he will never be a powerful hitter. But he already has a career OPS of .784. And he was over .800 for much of 2022 until injuries affected him for part of the 2nd half of the season. AVG and OB only gets you so far. His ability to provide 40+ XB hits raises his total game, as well as total value for now, and the future.

    Martin is a very similar player to Arraez, but with much more speed. (Talking hitting, not defense). I've often thought, and commented, that I think Martin could be a RH version of Royal's great Alex Gordon...a little less HR power but probably a better AVG and OB version of him, with a little more speed. I see a ton of doubles, eventual mid teens HR power, double digit SB and maybe 20+, and hitting and getting OB while being a quality LF who can play a solid CF and can cover 2B/3B if and when you need him to. If even more power develops, that's a bonus. But he doesn't have to be a 20+HR hitter to be valuable and very good.

    Yep totally agree.  Hard to have a team full of hitters with power, avg, OBP and speed.  The question was asked why power is so important and just wanted to throw my two cents in.  Getting on base is important.  Not making outs is important.  So there are other ways to contribute but when all is said and done if those skills overlap and someone else adds power to their profile they are gonna take the other players job.

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    2 hours ago, Dman said:

    To use an extreme example look at Aaron Judge vs Luis Arraez.  Judge can hit the ball out of the park. He walks a lot and he hits for a decent average.  He also plays above average defense at his position.  Which team would have more success a team full Arraez type players or Aaron Judge type players?  I think you know the answer.

    Since Arraez doesn't have power it doesn't mean he isn't valuable it just means he isn't as valuable as players who have close to his skills at the plate plus power.  If you are looking to make your team better you are looking for players that fill out the full spectrum of skill set and power is an important piece as with one swing you can change a game.

    In Summary encouraging players that make good contact to sell out for power can make them more valuable if they can do it. I would say developing power is very important in todays game and likely always will be.

     

    I totally understand hitting for power is super valueable and combining power with OBP and good defense is great. But not everyone is 6’8 and 280lbs and very few players can do that.
     Think of how much better the Yankees would have been last year if they had a guy who hit in front of Judge who had a .400 obs and could steal bases!

     

     

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    10 hours ago, Blyleven2011 said:

    With his deficiency at shortstop it just astounds me that they keep playing him at the position  and not try and develop him at a different  position  ...

    It just puzzles me that our FO and coaching don't do something about the obvious  , he isn't a defensive shortstop , to many errors in less than a 100 games ...

    Like you said, less than 100 games.  I think they had to give him a full year to decide, however, they were moving him around last year.  I also think the other part of it is the depth at OF positions, so if they can help him with footwork (at SS) or whatever the issue is, they need to try to work through that too.  

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    59 minutes ago, High heat said:

    I totally understand hitting for power is super valueable and combining power with OBP and good defense is great. But not everyone is 6’8 and 280lbs and very few players can do that.
     Think of how much better the Yankees would have been last year if they had a guy who hit in front of Judge who had a .400 obs and could steal bases!

     

     

    Yep but you are still dependent on someone with power like Judge to drive him in.  Agreed not everyone can do it but you said earlier that you didn't understand why power developing power was so important.  Power drives in runs with doubles and HR's.  They make pitchers pitch around power bats so OBP can be higher so average can be lower.   Power is the key that is why it is important.  That is why teams try to cultivate it.

    Not saying other skills are not important just that adding power makes players more desirable and better able to help the team win games.

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    1 hour ago, Dman said:

    Yep but you are still dependent on someone with power like Judge to drive him in.  Agreed not everyone can do it but you said earlier that you didn't understand why power developing power was so important.  Power drives in runs with doubles and HR's.  They make pitchers pitch around power bats so OBP can be higher so average can be lower.   Power is the key that is why it is important.  That is why teams try to cultivate it.

    Not saying other skills are not important just that adding power makes players more desirable and better able to help the team win games.

    I get that power is desirable and helps drive in runs but it is one way to drive in runs and one way to win games.  My argument is if you have 4 of the 5 tools you can still be a productive and valuable player to a winning team.


    I just hope you are a big Joey Gallo fan!  Power and OBP that’s his game!

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    On 1/7/2023 at 8:49 AM, TownBallGuy said:

    A Stud shortshop, always was.  He tore it up at SS in the Fall League and was named an all-star.   He doesn't belong in the outfield.

    My guess is unfortunately we don't see him at SS again. It was questionable whether he could stick there when he was drafted and he's got two years now of being quite bad there.

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    On 1/7/2023 at 8:57 AM, tony&rodney said:

    This reads similar to an article about Royce Lewis just a few years back. 

    One side comment - errors at the minor league level are not solid indicators of whether a player can actually succeed at a position. Lateral movement, reads, hands, reflexes, release, and arm are better indicators of future competence.

    He's always had the questions and has two years now of not performing well there though. His arm is a concern for the position and they favored Brooks Lee at SS when he was promoted. Of course more goes into it than errors but it's all we have and I'd be surprised to see them continue with this experiment for a 3rd year.

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    On 1/7/2023 at 7:08 PM, High heat said:

     Think of how much better the Yankees would have been last year if they had a guy who hit in front of Judge who had a .400 obs and could steal bases!

    About the same as someone who has a .400 OBP and doesn't steal bases. You score by HR from first or second base.

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    Home run hitters drive Cadillacs. Singles hitters drive Fords. This concept dates back to at least Ralph Kiner, making it three quarters of a century old. Babe Ruth figured it out, so let's call it a nice round 100 years.

    Luis Arraez is your quintessential "nice little player."  I believe you can even win a World Series with him as a regular on your roster, but you can say the same about several hundred ballplayers.

    If Austin Martin wants to be more than a nice little player, he needs to display power.

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