TORONTO – Last month, as the first few picks of the MLB Draft unfolded and Austin Martin’s name stayed on the board, Charlie Montoyo started hoping he’d remain available just a little longer.
An elite hitter who played multiple positions at Vanderbilt, Martin was expected to be selected within the first two picks of the draft. Instead, the Orioles, Marlins and Royals passed on Martin, creating an opportunity for the Blue Jays.
“I’d heard he was one of the best players, if not the best player in the draft, and I kept watching,” Montoyo recalled. “When we got him, I was really excited.”
Less than a month later, Montoyo’s about to become Martin’s first professional manager. Now that the 21-year-old has officially signed a $7,000,825 deal, the Blue Jays plan to add him to their 60-player pool and bring him to Rogers Centre to work out alongside the organization’s big-league players.
“I’m looking forward to seeing him play, take BP, catch ground balls and do everything,” Montoyo said. “He’s an exciting player, it seems like.”
At this point, the Blue Jays have yet to make a determination on where they’ll play Martin – not that there’s any rush. He started games at six different positions during his freshman year at Vanderbilt, split his sophomore year between second and third and was announced on draft day as a shortstop. That versatility gives the Blue Jays plenty of options as they map out his development.
Regardless, his bat has plenty of promise. Martin led the SEC with a .392 average and .486 on-base percentage in 2019 while also walking more often than he struck out. He has shown some power, with 10 home runs last year, but to this point the majority of his offensive value has come from his strike zone judgment and ability to make consistently hard contact.
That combination meant first-year scouting director Shane Farrell was ‘ecstatic’ to land Martin with the club’s highest selection in decades.
Like any player arriving in Toronto, Martin will have to pass through intake testing to screen for COVID-19 before joining the team.
“When he passes all of that, he should be able to come,” Montoyo said.
Once the season begins July 24, Martin would likely head to Buffalo, along with the other members of the player pool who don’t make the active roster. At that point, the Blue Jays will have to find ways to develop their prospects without the benefit of games. It’ll be a challenge, but as an experienced college hitter who starred for years in the SEC, Martin’s likely better prepared for pro ball than most 2020 draftees.
Meanwhile, the over-slot deal with Martin also reflects an improved relationship between the Blue Jays and agent Scott Boras. It wasn’t long ago that Boras said the organization had a case of the ‘blue flu’ in reference to an off-season of modest spending. But deals with Martin and Hyun-jin Ryu suggest that relationship has improved considerably.