“I think he’s the purest hitter in the draft.”@MLBNetwork analyst Dan O’Dowd breaks down our guy, @austin_martin99.#MLBDraft | #VandyBoys pic.twitter.com/pcS2R003ow
— Vanderbilt Baseball (@VandyBoys) June 4, 2020
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Austin Martin knows this week will indeed be a dream of his come true. He only wishes more of his friends and teammates could be alongside him for a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
“It’s unfortunate, again, that I couldn’t be here with my team and I couldn’t experience this moment and share it with them,” Martin recently told WKRN, “but I look forward to it and being with my family.”
Martin, Vanderbilt’s former star utility player, is expected to be selected among the first picks of the 2020 MLB Draft which begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN and the MLB Network and continues at 4 p.m. Thursday. A 6-foot, 170-pound junior, Martin’s abilities at the plate and in the field have made him a prime prospect for the future plans of Major League Baseball clubs.
His competitive drive sets him apart from most of the others in his draft class.
“I think when you go watch a player of (Martin’s) skill level – I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out what he’s good at – so that is why you like him. To me, the other end of that equation is how he became that way,” MLB Network analyst Dan O’Dowd said. “You really dig into his past and how he became the player that he is – that tells you what kind of player you’re going to get and how that player’s talent is going to affect other players around him more than just his own ability to compete.”
Martin was named a preseason All-American by four different publications and was the D1Baseball preseason SEC Player of the Year. He made 16 starts in Vanderbilt’s shortened, 18-game season and led the Commodores in hits (20) and runs (15) while hitting .377 and slugging .660.
A relatively lightly-recruited student-athlete out of Trinity Christian Academy in Deltona, Florida, Martin was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 37th round of the 2017 MLB Draft before he opted to enroll at Vanderbilt. Since then he’s become a Freshman All-American, first team All-American, All-SEC first team selection and Dick Howser Trophy and Golden Spikes semifinalist.
And he’s done all that by showing his tremendous versatility.
“I think the game is changing a little bit now,” Martin said. “There’s a heavy use of utility guys – there’s a lot of value in it. I think that aspect of my game is very useful. I think that will help me move up quicker for whatever position the team needs me to. I know I’ll be able to fill that role and perform at a high level.
“I’m just a versatile player.”
The 2020 MLB Draft, in part due to the global pandemic of COVID-19, has been shortened to a two-day, five-round event which starts Wednesday and continues Thursday. In 2019, during the traditional version of the event, Vanderbilt saw 13 former student-athletes selected – including JJ Bleday who was chosen by the Miami Marlins fourth overall.
Bleday spent two seasons playing with Martin and knows exactly what an MLB franchise will soon be getting.
“I always liked (Martin’s) swag, man,” Bleday said. “He had a good personality on the field – that’s something I liked in a player because it’s something that he’s showing confidence out on the field. And he’s a guy that you can rely on and trust because of that.
“He shows up every day, whether it’s training or a game, to go out and compete his butt off and help win a ballgame.”
COMMODORES IN THE 2020 CLASS
While expectations are for Martin to be one of the first names called Wednesday, plenty of his teammates could follow soon after.
Juniors Jake Eder, Hugh Fisher, Mason Hickman and Tyler Brown are four of the more highly-ranked prospects on the Vanderbilt roster. Seniors Ty Duvall and Harrison Ray are also eligible to be picked along with juniors Cooper Davis and Erik Kaiser and sophomore Ethan Smith.
“I think when you look at a Vanderbilt kid you know he’s going to come out prepared,” O’Dowd said of the 2020 class of Commodores. “He’s going to come out prepared, he’s going to be a fundamentally-sound player, he’s going to be very, very self-accountable, he’s going to take coaching exceptionally well and know how to apply coaching exceptionally well – and probably most-importantly (an organization is) going to get a great kid.
“A kid that understands and respects the game, understands and values teammates, understands how to make the team better in the big picture and understands you can put this kid in pretty much any environment and competitively he’s going to come out ahead of the guy next to him.”
Expert insight from Dan O’Dowd on a trio of Commodore arms.#MLBDraft | #VandyBoys pic.twitter.com/j0P1GMjD8A
— Vanderbilt Baseball (@VandyBoys) June 6, 2020
CORBIN JOINS COVERAGE
Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin will be featured during the MLB Network broadcast Wednesday.
Corbin will join O’Dowd, Al Leiter (the father of Vanderbilt pitcher Jack Leiter), Harold Reynolds, Matt Vesgersian, Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo and Carlos Callazo during the first round of the two-day event. After 18 seasons with the Commodores, Corbin has built a program that produces a wealth of professional-level talent.
“No. 1 it’s about locating the right players and trying to find the right fit for the University and our program – I think that’s so important,” Corbin recently told the MLB Network. “I really feel like in a lot of different ways (Vanderbilt) being a private school and our ability to accentuate academics really helps these kids and it grows their mind to start organizing their mind and their thoughts – and it does enable them to be better baseball players.
“We’re fortunate to grab some good players and still maintain a level of consistency.”
ONE OF 23
Martin will be one of 23 prospects featured during this week’s MLB Draft coverage.
Major League Baseball announced Friday that Martin, along with other top players, will be part of ESPN and MLB Network’s virtual coverage of the event.
All 23 players scheduled to appear are ranked within the top 36 of the Draft Top 200.
• Since 2007, Vanderbilt leads the Southeastern Conference in No. 1 draft picks (two), top-10 picks (eight), first-round selections (15), selections in the first three rounds (27) and selections in the first five rounds (35).
• Vanderbilt is one of two programs to produce two No. 1 overall picks (Dansby Swanson and David Price).
• Since 2003, Vanderbilt has had nine top-10 picks, more than every other program in the SEC East combined.
• Since 2003, Vanderbilt leads the SEC with 121 draft picks.
• Since 2003, Vanderbilt leads the SEC with 16 first-round selections.
Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com. Follow him @MrChadBishop.