What Makes Austin Martin So Good?

Twitter photo

In a non-pandemic year, we would have written a couple of thousand words about the Blue Jays 1st round pick last year. After a slow start to the season, Austin Martin is showing why he was one of the most coveted players in last year’s draft.

Simply put, Martin has professional ABs. There are many ways to analyze him, but Martin goes into each plate appearance comfortable, confident, and with a plan.

First things first. Here’s a sample of a scouting report from Baseball America:

He has excellent hand-eye coordination which leads to a high contact rate and good plate coverage, with no problems barreling high-end velocity. Martin’s bat speed and swing efficiency allow him to let the ball travel deep before deciding whether to swing which, along with his keen eye for the strike zone, helps him get on base at a high clip. Martin’s offensive value will come more from his on-base skills than his power, but he has solid-average raw power that was showing up more in games before the season shut down. A tick above-average runner.

Martin led the SEC in on-base percentage in 2019, and with his short, compact stroke, along with an ability to manage the strike zone, it’s easy to understand why. Martin simply does not chase. Sure, he gets fooled from time-to-time as all hitters do, but Martin knows what he can get to with his barrel and what he can’t, and he rarely strays from that mindset. This seems to lead to plenty of hitters counts, and with his plate coverage and ability to pick up spin, Martin often seems to be at an advantage. After a May that featured several games missed due to injury, Martin has been on fire, slashing .308/.449/.513 over the last 15 days.

A look at Martin at the plate. In the first photo, he’s back in the box, just off the plate, with a slightly open stance:

MiLB.com

In the next, as the pitcher rocks back and begins his forward momentum to the plate, Martin closes his stance, cocks his bat into a good line-drive producing position, and keeps his head still:

MiLB.com

Here’s the video of that whole sequence:

MiLB.com

Martin got himself into a favourable count, and even though the plan was to keep the ball away, the Binghamton pitcher had some arm-side run on the 2-1 pitch, and it drifted right into Martin’s wheelhouse. Because he can stay on the pitch so long and his hands are so quick, Martin was able to barrel it up over the RF wall. The sound of the ball off his bat was unmistakeable.

At the moment, Martin’s swing is producing more of a ground ball (48%) than a line drive (24%) result, but he was hitting liners all over the place in the Fisher Cats’ last series. Martin puts the ball in play (8% whiff rate), and while he may not win a Home Run crown, he finds the gaps, and with his speed and base running instincts, will produce more than his share of extra base hits.

Where will Martin ultimately play? That, of course, is the question – one that perhaps not even the Blue Jays are sure of just yet. In 24 games with New Hampshire, he’s split his time evenly between SS and CF. He’s looked a little fringy (MiLB.tv is better for judging hitting and pitching, quite honestly), but most players below AAA seem to still be scraping the rust off (after not playing real games in 2020) at this point of the season, so more time will be needed to make a judgment. With his speed and baseball IQ, he ultimately will be an adequate defender, – it may just take some time. Wherever he winds up, and whenever (likely next season) he gets to the bigs, he will be a fixture in the top third of the Blue Jays order.

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