It’s hard to remember a baseball player at the University of Arkansas having hotter start to his career than Casey Martin. As a rookie Martin sizzled at the plate, hitting a team leading .345 with 13 home runs. He set a freshman record at the school with 87 hits as Arkansas charged into Omaha after going 5-1 in the Fayetteville Regional and Super Regional.
Martin had eight hits in three straight wins for the Hogs in the 2018 College World Series. But the bottom fell out in the championship series against Oregon State. Martin went 2-14 in three games against the eventual national champions for a paltry .142 average with six strikeouts. Not the way Arkansas fans had envisioned for the end of what had been an inspiring freshman campaign for Martin.
“He really has not had that same confidence, I feel like, since that Oregon State championship series,” D-1 Baseball’s Kendall Rogers observed as he discussed Martin’s draft possibilities with the Pig Trail Nation. “If he can go back to the old Casey where he’s just really confident, walk into the box with a plan, he has a chance to be –he’ll be– an all star at the next level.”
Martin continued to load up on home runs his sophomore season, ending 2019 with 15. But his batting average dropped to .285 and word began to circulate that opposing SEC teams had figured Martin out at the plate: Throw him curveballs not fastballs.
There was talk going into the 2020 season that Martin would be more disciplined at the plate but in what would be a shortened campaign his average dipped further to .271. On the preseason Golden Spikes Award watch, list Martin suffered the indignity of being benched by head coach Dave Van Horn after going 1-9 with six strikeouts in losses against Oklahoma and Texas in the Shriners College Classic. He stranded the tying run in scoring position with a game-ending strikeout against the Longhorns.
Martin was up and down at the plate in the six remaining games of the season. He went 6-8 with 4 RBI in wins over Illinois State and South Alabama. But he was 1-13 in the remaining two games of the South Alabama series and game one against Grand Canyon University. Martin ended his career at Arkansas with a 3-5 day at the plate and 4 RBI in game two vs. Grand Canyon.
Rogers admitted that Martin’s up and down struggles over the past two seasons has left major league scouts with some questions heading into the 2020 MLB draft but he pointed out that the young man will still likely go in the first two rounds. “If he puts it together, man, he could really be something special,” Rogers added.
Questions also remain about Martin’s defense which mirrors the hot and cold nature of his offensive skills. At Arkansas Martin served up a plethora of eye-popping defensive plays at 3rd and shortstop while also recording an abundance of head scratching errors.
Not a problem, according to Rogers.
“I could see him ending up in center field,” Rogers said of Martin’s playing position at the next level. “Obviously he has premier speed. He’s just a terrific athlete. I think they will find a spot where he’ll flourish defensively.”
So what does Martin need to do to become the hitter he was as a rookie at Arkansas?
“The biggest thing for him is just to be a lot more consistent with his offensive approach,” Rogers answered. “He’s got to be more selective. I don’t think there’s any in between with Casey Martin. I think it’s either feast or famine.”
If it is indeed “feast” Rogers believes the sky is the limit for the young man from Lonoke, Arkansas.