Arizona State slugger Spencer Torkelson is widely considered to be the best player available in this draft and the likely choice to go first overall by the Tigers. Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin is widely considered the second-best player, and the most likely to be selected by the Orioles with the #2 selection. However there has been some recent buzz that the Orioles could go with an underslot deal with outfielder Zac Veen, according to Baseball America. If the Marlins lock in on pitcher Asa Lacy with the third pick, that could leave the Royals with an opportunity to grab a player some consider the best overall talent in this draft - Austin Martin.
Martin graduated from Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Florida, where he was ranked as a top 100 prep prospect by Perfect Game in 2017. He was selected in the 37th round by the Indians, but opted to go to college baseball powerhouse Vanderbilt. He made an impact immediately, hitting .338 as a freshman with 22 steals to lead the SEC. He won a national championship in 2019 as a sophomore, hitting .392/.486/.604 with 10 home runs and 18 steals in 65 games. He was off to a good start this year as well, hitting .377 with three home runs in 15 games before play was stopped.
Martin was a versatile player at Vanderbilt, playing every position except pitcher and catcher, although he settled in a third base most of the time. Scouts think he has the athletic ability to stick in centerfield, where he played for the U.S. Collegiate National team, although others think second base is where he could end up, and shortstop is not out of the question. He has plus speed, although he is not a burner, and has soft hands and reflexes to adapt to any position.
Where Martin excels however, is with the bat, and he is described by Baseball America as having “some of the best pure hitting ability in the class, with eye-popping bat speed, excellent contact ability and impressive plate discipline as well.” Martin does not have a ton of raw power, but his home run numbers have improved and MLB Pipeline notes he has a “tremendous feel for the barrel and makes consistent hard contact with a short, quick right-handed stroke” that allows him to tap into every ounce of power he has.
"Vanderbilt shortstop Austin Martin is the best hitter available and has the athleticism to play almost anywhere on the diamond." - @jimcallisMLB— Vanderbilt Baseball (@VandyBoys) December 5, 2019
https://t.co/UzsEMVBOx0#VandyBoys | #AnchorDown pic.twitter.com/4UZlXgcHax
Because of his positional versatility and pure hitting ability, his comps range from Ben Zobrist to Alex Bregman. Martin plays with confidence and is considered a smart and competitive player, according to testimony by Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin.
“You start watching (Martin) and you start to say, ‘Wow, this kid is a little bit unique,’” Corbin said. “There’s a difference to what he’s doing. He’s winning games for you. Because he’s moving on the bases. He’s on base. His cleats touch first base so many times, but when they get beyond first base, his cleats get the third because of his own abilities....
“The analytics that can’t be measured is the brain,” Corbin said. “The only way you can see the analytics of the brain is if you continually watch a guy day to day and see how he plays the game.”
Martin seems to check a lot of boxes the Royals love - positional versatility, strong up the middle, good power/speed combo, and great character. It still seems likely he’ll be among the first three picks in this draft, but if he somehow falls to the Royals at #4, it could be quite the godsend.