FAYETTEVILLE – One day and two rounds after first-round drafting touted high school pitching prospect Mick Abel, the Philadelphia Phillies happily raised cain.
Formerly first-round projected Casey Martin was still on the available draft board. So the Phillies used their next draft pick that didn’t come until Thursday’s third round making the University of Arkansas Razorbacks junior shortstop from Lonoke the 87th player selected in the since completed 2-day 5-rounds Major League Baseball draft.
Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn was a bit surprised it took that long for his so athletically gifted Razorback to be drafted. He was not bit surprised the Phillies leaped at their second chance.
“I think the Phillies have been interested in Casey since high school,” Van Horn said. “I know a couple of their scouts and we’ve talked a few times over the last year or two about Casey. They had the 15th pick of the first round and they didn’t pick again until the 80-something pick. They didn’t feel like Casey Martin would be there, but there he was and they got him. Casey’s with a really good organization, an organization that really wanted him. I guess they came to an agreement on money and it worked out.”
The Phillies couldn’t believe so many focused on Martin striking out too often in 2019 and early in the shortened by the coronavirus pandemic 2020 season and making more errors as a 2019 shortstop than 2018 third baseman to miss Martin’s combination of power, speed, arm strength and range. All that caused MLB Pipeline pre draft ranking him the No. 30 prospect for the first round’s 37 total picks.
“We didn’t think Casey would have any chance of getting to us when the day started yesterday,” Phillies amateur scouting director Brian Barber was quoted Friday afternoon on the Phillies website. “And we didn’t have any intention of letting him get by us when that opportunity presented itself.”
Of course the third-round 87th player taken is monetarily offered nothing like the nearly $8 million that Razorbacks junior outfielder Heston Kjerstad should get from the Baltimore Orioles as the first round’s second pick of the entire draft.
But last year’s slotted $689,000 neighborhood for the 87th selected player should be a considerable financial start.
“I think I got a fair amount for where I was picked and for my value,” Martin said on Friday’s UA arranged Zoom press conference.
As Thursday’s second round delved deeper into Round Three, Martin just valued getting picked.
“I’m just grateful to have an opportunity to continue my baseball career and move on to the next level,” Martin said. “I think it’s time. I’m just really grateful that they are taking a chance on me. I’m definitely ready.”
The Phillies’ star player, outfielder Bryce Harper, apparently thinks so.
“He actually FaceTimed me after I got selected,” Martin said, “One of the probably, biggest moments of my life. I’ve grown up watching Bryce Harper play. He’s a stud. Never would I have dreamed I’d be on the other end of the phone with him. But, man, here we are. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Before he ever can see Harper as a Phillies teammate, Martin must in the minors correct what dropped him down the draft.
“Everybody says swings and misses,” Martin said. “That’s what all the scouts say. So we just have to continue to work on that.”
Martin struck out 64 times in 2018 upped to 79 in 2019 and whiffed 22 times in 59 2020 at bats. But with a readjusted swing in his final game before the season’s premature end went 3 for 5 with a double, home run and single and four RBI after an 0 for 5 four-strikeouts game the previous day.
Martin’s speed, arm and versatility makes him a candidate to play second, short and third or even center field. He played center before moving to short as a Lonoke Jackrabbit.
Martin not only takes Jackrabbit speed but always part of Lonoke wherever he travels
Asked Friday to describe his hometown Friday by a Philadelphia writer, Martin replied, “Well, I can tell you right now, whatever you’re probably picturing is probably exactly what it looks like. It’s all fields. It’s all corn, it’s all rice, it’s all beans. It’s nothing but beat up old roads and jacked up old trucks and farm land. Got a bunch of fish farms here too. Not really much to do here besides hunt and ride around.”
And that, he said smiling, is enough.
“Definitely wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,” Martin said. “I can tell you that.”