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The 2020 MLB draft (also known as the Rule 4 draft), bringing players into the league from the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, is the most unusual in memory since the draft began. Instead of the 40 rounds of draft picks that the clubs would make, there are just five this year, one tonight and four tomorrow. Additionally, to help protect the teams’ financial situations (really?), clubs only have to pay a maximum of $100,000 towards the players’ signing bonuses this year with the balance being paid in 2021 and 2022.
The Blue Jays have the fifth pick in the draft, the highest that they’ve drafted since 1997 when they selected Vernon Wells.
The run up to the Blue Jays’ selection was interesting this year. Spencer Torkelson was selected by the Detroit Tigers first overall as was expected, but the Baltimore Orioles went with outfielder Heston Kjerstad (ranked 10th by MLB.com and 13th by Baseball America. Third was Max Meyer, selected by the Miami Marlins, who was ranked ninth by MLB.com and 10th by Baseball America. Lefty Asa Lacy went at four to the Kansas City Royals, he was ranked much higher than the two previous selections, ranked third overall by both MLB and BA.
With the fifth pick in the draft, the Blue Jays went with the next best player on the board, OF/3B Austin Martin out of Vanderbilt University. Projected to go #2 overall to the Orioles, Martin falls to the Blue Jays. MLB.com calls Martin “the best pure hitter in the 2020 Draft” and note that he has a short, quick right-handed stroke. MLB likes his speed and defense at shortstop but it’s thought he could play either third base or center field as a pro.
According to Baseball America, Martin was a first-team All-American in his sophomore season, hitting .392/.486/.604, coming in third in the NCAA in hits. Martin has been compared to Dansby Swanson, as both were near the top of the draft class and both went to Vanderbilt but they’re both big on contact ability and plate discipline with developing power. Defensively, BA thinks he’ll be able to contribute on defense whether it’s at third, second or center field, where he played with the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team.
In his collegiate career, Martin had a .368/.474/.532 slash line in two full seasons and 16 games of his junior year (that was cancelled because of COVID-19). That said, he hit three home runs in just 16 games in 2020, walking 10 times and striking out just twice. In a larger sample size, he also walked more in 2019 (40 times) than he struck out (34 times).
Martin gets raves as one of the best overall position players in the draft and several sources (including Dan O’Dowd on MLB’s broadcast) have indeed called him the best position player.
I have to say that I really like this pick. Rather than go with someone who they might have expected to get, the fact that Martin fell to number five gives the Blue Jays a very versatile player who can complement the current guys who have already broken into the majors while being someone who is about the same age as Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero (Martin turned 21 in March). Being a guy who can play the outfield with a plus bat makes him even more valuable but he could also fit in at third base if Vlad moves over to first.
What do you think of the Jays’ first-round pick in the 2020 draft? Let us know in the comments!
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