Round 3: INF Casey Martin, first-round talent, third-round pick
"“We were really excited; we did not go into the draft expecting that Casey Martin would get to our third-round pick. When he was there, we were thrilled to take him.”"
Klentak says the Phillies’ mentality of not shying away from a high-upside player carried over into their next pick, which due to signing Zack Wheeler did not come until the third round.
The Phillies were bullish, to say the least, on Martin, despite him having hamate bone surgery this past fall: “We were really excited; we did not go into the draft expecting that he would get to our third-round pick,” Klentak says. “When he was there, we were thrilled to take him.”
“It was a similar dynamic in that there’s some upside [as in Mick Abel] in this pick,” Klentak says.
Had Martin played a full season this year, or performed as he did as a freshman or even better, Klentak says he has doubts he would have still been available for the Phillies to pick: “There’s some reason to believe that had we not had the pandemic, there’s no chance he makes it to pick No. 87, which is where picked him in the third round.”
Among Martin’s tools noted by the Phillies general manager included his “really strong running grade” and “ability to hit for power.”
“You can work with that, whether that player becomes your everyday shortstop for a decade, slides over somewhere else on the dirt, utilizes his speed in the outfield, or does some combination of all those things,” Klentak says.
Having versatility works well for any rising prospect, and Frandsen compared Martin to the Kansas City Royals’ Whit Merrifield. Phillies utility player Scott Kingery was also compared.
The Phillies had been interested in the 21-year-old right-handed hitter since high school, his collegiate alma mater’s head baseball coach Dave Van Horn told reporters. Entering the draft, Baseball America ranked Martin as the 38th-ranked prospect, while MLB.com ranked him as the 30th best.
“There’s a lot of different paths that a player with this toolset can take. That is appealing,” Klentak says. “I think that’s part of the reason that players who are defensively limited to a single spot often are not quite as in demand in the draft as someone with more versatility unless they possess an elite bat. Elite bats tend to go high regardless.”
While a member of the University of Arkansas Razorbacks baseball team, also known as the Diamond Hogs, Martin helped them to back-to-back trips to Omaha, Nebraska, the College World Series, for the first time in school history. Over 148 games and three seasons with the Diamond Hogs, he slashed .310/.389/.542 with 40 doubles, 30 home runs and 116 RBI.
Klentak calls choosing Martin “an easy choice,” but that he and his colleagues had to “sweat it out” for a while as the draft progressed.
“You roll around from the second to the third round, you still have 15 picks to go before you come up, and you just see his name staring at you on your board,” Klentak says. “We’re on the conference call, so we hear the pick five or 10 seconds before ESPN or MLB Network post it.”
“You’re listening for that and each time you’re like, ‘Come on, don’t be him.’ It was a little nerve-wracking.”