Wade Payne/Associated Press
The Toronto Blue Jays added an elite hitter to their prospect talent pool after selecting Vanderbilt star Austin Martin with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 Major League Baseball draft on Wednesday.
Before the NCAA canceled spring sports because of the coronavirus pandemic, Martin was making a case for himself as the best player in this year’s draft class. He already built a strong reputation in his first two college seasons as a Freshman All-American in 2018 and a Baseball America All-American in 2019.
Martin only had 16 games this season to showcase his skills, but he made an excellent argument as an elite prospect. The Florida native hit .377/.507/.660 with nine extra-base hits and 15 runs scored.
Per MLB.com, which had Martin ranked as the No. 2 player in the 2020 draft, his bat-to-ball skills are unmatched by anyone in this class:
“The best pure hitter in the 2020 Draft, Martin has tremendous feel for the barrel and makes consistent hard contact with a short, quick right-handed stroke. He’s not overly physical and may not have more than average raw power, but his hitting ability allows him to tap into every bit of it. He controls the strike zone extremely well and uses the entire field, exhibiting no weaknesses at the plate.”
Martin’s ability to make contact separates him from a lot of hitters in today’s MLB. The 21-year-old only struck out twice in 53 at-bats this season and was punched out 82 times in 543 at-bats in his college career.
There are questions about Martin’s ultimate defensive position. He played third base and center field this season. His limited power potential would make him much more valuable at center field—or possibly shortstop, though Vanderbilt never used him there.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced him as a shortstop during Wednesday’s draft.
Wherever Martin ends up playing in the field, the potential for a high-average hitter who gets on base and knows how to use his instincts to steal bases will make him a valuable asset for the Blue Jays.