Detroit Tigers: Making a Case For Austin Martin at Number 1

Every site has the Detroit Tigers picking Torkelson at number one. Does Austin Martin deserve some consideration?   Yes, he does.

Jay Markle wrote recently a good piece on why Torkelson may not be the number one choice for the number one pick. Both Harris Frommer and Chris Brown of Tigers Minor League Report love the power and Harris even saw Torkelson play in a showcase back in February.  I may be in the minority here and prefer Austin Martin, taking the side of Baseball America, who had him projected to go number one.

I have been debating about this for the past few months. Early on, Chris and I discussed Martin’s shortcomings and the Tigers’ need for Martin’s abilities to play in the infield. Of course, as Chris did remind me, you never draft for a position of need. While the Tigers have not developed their own first baseman of an All-Star caliber since Tony Clark, Detroit has not developed an All-Star infielder since Brandon Inge in 2009. To boot, that wasn’t Inge’s best season as far as bWAR is concerned, that came in 2006 when he posted a 5.0 bWAR. But I digress.

Jay did mention Asa Lacy, the pitcher out of Texas A&M for the reasons of his ability to anchor a rotation, from the SEC and signability compared to Torkelson, who is represented by Scott Boras. However, I finally present Austin Martin’s profile and a brief reason why the Detroit Tigers should consider him at number one. (pause the tomato throwing for later)

Strengths:

Austin Martin was the number one overall rated prospect by Baseball American before the season began. The 6-foot, 170-pound infielder/outfielder 2019’s slash line was .392/ .486/ .604 with an OPS of 1.090 in 65 games.  He improved his walks to strikeouts from the previous season.  In 2018, he walked 35 times to 46 strikeouts. In 2019, he walked 40 times to 34 strikeouts and what was a very sample size in 2020, he had 11 walks to 2 strikeouts.

He has been praised for not only his ability to barrel up the ball and make great contact but to also draw walks, something that is rare not only on the current 40-man roster for Detroit but in their minor leagues at the moment. His swing is geared towards generating contact and has a nice, compact stroke.

Look at his elbow during his swing here. Reminds me of the Reds Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan. Take a look. Video courtesy of 2020 Baseball

Now here is Joe Morgan:

While Martin’s maybe more of a twitch than Morgan almost doing a bird flap, it helped Joe Morgan at the plate become a Hall of Famer.

Martin’s ability to get on base is something Detroit lacks desperately. Below are the top three players in the Tigers system with the most walks. I then added how many times they struck out. The numbers courtesy of Baseball-Reference:

  1. Daz Cameron: 62 walks to 152 strikeouts in 528 plate appearances
  2. Isaac Paredes: 57 walks to 61 strikeouts in 552 plate appearances
  3. Jacob Robson: 53 walks to 132 strikeouts in 473 plate appearances

Paredes is one of the few players in the Tigers system that has a decent walk rate. You can’t teach that and Martin seems to have that as part of his baseball DNA.

Martin can drive the ball to all fields and his versatility in playing whatever position Vanderbilt needed to play.  I liked the quote from Brian Sakowski said in the Freep earlier in the month when talking to Anthony Fenech about where he can play in the field.

“He’s more versatile,” Sakowski said recently. “He can play a bunch of different spots and he’s got a chance to, you know — I don’t know if a team drafts the guy at No. 1 that they have designs on moving around — but he could conceivably play a couple games at third and a couple at second and a couple games in center field if you need him to.”

If Detroit decided to draft him, they could see where he could work out the best. There is no set spot for Martin, which in my mind is perfect. While he is projected long term at shortstop, Detroit needs help all over. Put him where he could succeed the best.

Weakness:

The lack of experience at shortstop you could make the case because if the Tigers drafted him to play short, he would go through a trial by fire phase in the minors.  While he did have minor knee surgery in the 2019 off-season, that isn’t a “weakness” but something to perhaps monitor going forward.

Draft Projection:

Austin Martin is a five-tool player. While I am no scouting expert, I know enough to know Martin is a can’t miss player. To have two players that can’t miss with him and Torkelson on the top of one of the deepest drafts in recent memory is a rare occasion.

I present my case for Austin Martin for the number one overall pick to Detroit for this simple reason. He can play anywhere Detroit needs him. Yes, I am aware that Torkelson has more power and yes, I am aware Detroit needs more power bats and a first baseman in their system. Torkelson may have the ability to play a corner outfield position but Detroit needs help in every aspect of their minor league system. Martin’s power numbers have been growing and who is to say they may not develop more here. Also, you don’t draft for positional need. Martin can play anywhere.

Look at the numbers above, check out the videos that are out there of his at-bats. The numbers indicate both him and Torkelson would be impactful right away. I lean towards Martin because of his versatility on defense.  If Detroit does not draft him, I could see him going to Miami at three because Baltimore needs pitching badly and they have some strong familiarity with Vanderbilt after drafting JJ Bleday last year.

The “Tank for Tork” crowd may not like this idea and that’s fine. But if the Tigers could get an OPS machine like Martin who could provide solid defense no matter where he plays, that could get the rebuild started just as quickly as Torkelson.

 

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