Twins Add Austin Martin To Their Nucleus
As far as the Twins were concerned, Austin Martin’s ranking hadn’t changed. Only his availability had.
“We had him first or second on our draft board,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said, referring to the 2020 draft. “We knew who he was— truly top-of-the-draft talent who’s already playing in Double-A. And hitting.”
When the Blue Jays finally agreed to add Martin, the fifth overall pick out of Vanderbilt a summer ago, to their offer for two-time all-star righthander Jose Berrios, the deal was sealed.
Martin, his on-base percentage an eye-catching .424 just three months into his professional career, may be the highest-rated prospect ever acquired by the Twins in a trade.
The Twins believe he’ll develop quickly, too—and add power. Martin wasn’t a slugger in college. He hit 10 home runs while helping Vanderbilt win the College World Series in 2019.
But “this guy really knows how to control the barrel of the bat, really special hit skills,” Falvey said. “Our scouts who watched him take BP said, ‘There are times when you want to see him unleash, but he’s a true three-to-right, three-to-center, three-to-left guy, the way he was taught.
"When you have those baseline skills, we think (power) will eventually come along the way.”
Scouts are less certain about where Martin, 22, will wind up defensively. He split time between center field and shortstop at Double-A New Hampshire, and while scouts are skeptical that he can remain at short, “We do think he’s got the ability to play in the dirt somewhere,” Falvey said.
“It’s the same conversation we’ve had about Royce (Lewis, the first overall pick in 2017). He’s a premium athlete. He’s got instincts on the field that are very unique. He’ll play both for us and (we'll) settle on what it looks like after we get to know him a little more.”
Mostly, the Twins are just glad they get the chance to know Martin.
“We weren’t looking to trade (Berrios). There wasn’t any urgency,” Falvey said. “But when you have access to someone who can be a part of your nucleus for a long time, that changes things.”
— Righthander Simeon Woods Richardson was acquired along with Martin, and Joe Ryan, another righthander, was acquired from the Rays for Nelson Cruz. At the time of their trades, both pitchers were on Team USA, playing in the Tokyo Olympics, delaying the Twins’ ability to meet their new pitching prospects.
— The Twins were confident that righthander Brandon Birdsell would sign when they drafted him in the 11th round, but three days later, Birdsell announced on Twitter that he would be returning to Texas Tech instead. Birdsell was the only one of Minnesota’s 21 draftees who didn’t sign.