Image credit: Austin Martin (Photo by Andrew Woolley/Four Seam Images)
The first real surprise of the night came when the Orioles passed on Vanderbilt star Austin Martin, the No. 2 player in the BA 500, in favor of Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad. Martin’s slide did not stop there, as two more teams passed on him before he was picked by the Blue Jays at fifth overall.
Blue Jays scouting director Shane Farrell admitted he did not expect to see Martin’s name still on the board by the time his team was on the clock.
“I think we were a little surprised. Obviously we’re keeping an eye on the mock drafts as they come out throughout the week and we’re aware of industry consensus, but I think it really started to shake up at picks two and three,” Farrell said on a call with media members following the selection. “We were surprised a little bit, but certainly prepared to make that selection and we’re ecstatic to have the chance to pick Austin.”
Martin joins one of the top farm systems in baseball as a shortstop, a position he rarely played at the college level. During his first two seasons at Vanderbilt, Martin suited up at third base before playing center field for Team USA’s Collegiate National Team last summer and for Vanderbilt this spring. It was that level of defensive versatility that stood out to Farrell.
“He’s obviously played a lot of different spots at Vanderbilt and the fact that he’s shown the defensive ability to play multiple spots up the middle is exciting and valuable in team-building,” Farrell said.
Martin is a plus runner and has the defensive ability to play multiple positions at the next level, including shortstop, but his pure hitting ability is what sets him apart from other players. He has exceptional bat speed, outstanding contact ability and strong plate discipline—Martin walked 85 times in his collegiate career compared to just 82 strikeouts—and improving above-average power.
In 140 games at the college level, Martin posted a .368/.474/.532 slash line and improved at the plate each year. After hitting .338/.452/.414 with one home run and 19 RBI as a freshman, Martin turned in a phenomenal sophomore campaign, hitting .392/.486/.604 with 10 home runs and 46 RBI while leading Vanderbilt to the national championship and earning first-team All-American honors. In 16 games this spring, Martin continued to mash with a .377 average, three home runs and 11 RBI.
While Farrell said he’s unsure of where Martin will start his pro debut, there’s no doubt that he will be able to contribute right away wherever it is.