Everyone’s eager to see what prospect Casey Martin will do in ’22 originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
CLEARWATER, Fla. — New Phillies director of player development Preston Mattingly was observing a workout at the team’s minor-league minicamp last week when Casey Martin jogged by.
“He’s one of the guys in the organization I can’t wait to see more of, as talented as he is,” Mattingly said.
Followers of the college game know Martin well. As a freshman at Arkansas in 2018, he hit .345 with 14 doubles, 13 homers and 49 RBIs while helping the Razorbacks get to the College World Series.
The dynamo infielder had the look of an eventual first-round pick, but injuries and concerns over his contact rate the next two seasons gave some teams pause.
When he was still available in the third round of the 2020 draft, Brian Barber pounced.
“He’s an exciting, quick-twitch athlete who is full of tools,” the Phillies scouting director said at the time. “Any time we can get middle of the field players who competed at a high level like the SEC with speed and power, we’re going to be in it.”
The Phillies believed in Martin’s upside so much, they gave him a $1.3 million signing bonus, well above the $685,500 that had been slotted for the 87th overall pick.
Martin was slowed by a hamate injury that required surgery before his junior season at Arkansas and he was plagued by bone spurs (since removed) in his left ankle during his first full pro season with the Phillies in 2021.
He’s healthy now. He’ll turn 23 in April. The 2022 season will offer a good read on where he sits on the development track — and where it might lead to.
“You get a guy like him, he can run, he can defend, he has power, lots of energy,” Mattingly said. “He just needs reps, needs to play.
“He has a chance to impact games not just at the plate, but defensively and on the bases. Those guys are valuable.”
Martin’s best position is shortstop, but he can also play second base and center field.
His best tool is his speed and his quick explosiveness. Check out the inside-the-park home run he hit at Kentucky in May 2019. He gets around the bases in 14 seconds and change. It was one of 30 homers he hit in 594 at-bats in college.
At 5-10, 180 pounds, Martin, an Arkansas native, has the build of former American League MVP Dustin Pedroia, his favorite player.
“That’s why I wear No. 15,” he said.
In terms of intangibles, Martin is a nose-in-the-dirt player. He competes with an edge. After a workout at minicamp last week, he spent a long time speaking with Larry Bowa.
Birds of a feather.
“He’s got some toughness to him,” Mattingly said.
“It’s how I was raised,” Martin said. “We grew up working for everything. My dad drilled into my head, work for what you want.”
Martin got off to a solid start at Low A Clearwater last year. He hit .278 with 16 doubles, a homer, 15 RBIs and a .361 on-base percentage in 38 games before moving to High A Jersey Shore and eventually back to Clearwater. He hit under .200 for the season but was not healthy.
“He was banged up last year,” Mattingly said.
Martin knows his game is speed-based and he knows he needs to be on the sacks to show his wheels. He is working hard to bring down his strikeouts — 120 in 374 at-bats last season.
“I’m working on backing the ball up,” he said of his approach at the plate. “I tend to get out in front. I try to go out and get it. I’m working on slowing it down a little and bringing the contact point back. I think I’ll be OK.”
Jersey Shore seems like a logical starting point for Martin this season. The new boss is eager to see what he does.
“I’m interested, too,” Casey Martin said with a laugh.