University of Arkansas shortstop Casey Martin may fall into the Tigers’ lap in the second round of the 2020 MLB Draft
The Detroit Tigers do not have a sparkling resume as it pertains to second round picks. Of course, having hindsight is helpful, but even former second rounders like Tyler Alexander and Rey Rivera were viewed as reaches from the start. Detroit, though, has an opportunity to shift that paradigm; and a player like Casey Martin would surely display just that.
Not to be confused with Vandy consensus top-10 pick Austin, Casey Martin is an Arkansas man through and through. He was the 2018 Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year in high school, where he played for Lonoke High School; about a half hour drive east from Little Rock. There, he would hit over .500 as a junior and was named first-team All-State.
Martin would continue his traction in high school with the Razorbacks; hitting 28 home runs combined over his first two seasons before a pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. Martin was most recently named a 2020 Preseason All-American and was listed on the watch list for the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award.
The greatest asset for Martin is his speed; where most outlets have him as a 70-grade on the 20-80 scouting scale, with some noting he is on the cusp of an 80-grade. Despite his running ability, though, he has just 24 career stolen bases over his 143 college games. This fact does not appear to exist due to his inability to steal bases, though, as he has only been caught three times in his college career. More than likely, this is a reflection of an analytics conclusion, which have largely shown that the risk associated with a stolen base is not worth the increased probability in run scoring.
Martin has also shown impressive power with his bat; producing double-digit home runs in each of his first two years with Arkansas from a premium defensive position. His ability to maintain his power at the next level will be vital for his development. At 180 lbs, it might make sense for him to add 10 or 20 pounds if it means maintaining the power; even if it comes at the expense a bit of that elite speed.
The weaknesses associated with Martin are not exactly weaknesses yet as much as they are risks to the team that will be drafting him. The first comes in the form of a reality that Martin may be destined ultimately to center field at the next level. While his speed and power combination from the shortstop position sounds incredibly appealing, Martin has stacked up 43 errors over his college career, including 5 errors in the short 15-game 2020 season. Errors certainly do not always tell the entire story, but a number like 43 screams position change in the future. Thankfully, his elite speed should play perfectly in the middle of the outfield; it’s more a matter of his comfort and tracking ability that pose possible risks.
Martin is also more of a project than some teams will be comfortable taking on given his age. Of course, the upside of a player with present power and speed is obvious, but it’s moot in pro ball if he is consistently outclassed by opposing pitchers. Some evaluators have strong concerns about Martin’s approach at the plate. Bluntly, he strikes out too often and whichever team selects him will have to find a way to help him improve his ability to consistently impact the ball.
There is also some doubt among the scouting community that Martin might not be able to maintain his power numbers when switching from the metal bat over to the wooden bat. Additionally, the consensus among newly drafted players about the difference between college and professional baseball is the amount of breaking pitches they see spikes in a big way. Keeping Martin more honest at the plate may take away from his power swing at the next level.
Martin checks in at #34 on Fangraphs’ “The Board”; which makes him a very realistic option for Detroit at pick #38 at the start of the second round. Given Martin’s athleticism, though, do not be surprised if a talented player development machine like the Dodgers snatch Martin at the end of the first round, especially if a team feels as though they can help him stick at shortstop.