The Yankees have attempted to improve their talent base up the middle over the last several years. They made Cuban shortstop Alexander Vargas their highest paid International Free Agent in 2018, then followed that up by selecting Anthony Volpe and Josh Smith in last year’s draft. Should the Yankees look to continue adding prospects up the middle, Ed Howard and Casey Martin are two choices who could be on their radar.
Howard is considered to the best high-school shortstop prospect in this year’s draft. He is no stranger to playing on a big stage, as he was a starter on the Jackie Robinson (West) team from Chicago that went to the Little League World Series final in 2014.
The 6’2” player has separated himself from his peers because he has no holes in his game. His athletic ability allows him to display plus range, and he will be able to stick at shortstop all the way to the major-league level. He has good hands to go with a strong and accurate throwing arm.
Howard’s quick hands allow him to barrel up balls consistently, even against good competition. He improved his stock on the summer circuit last year by hitting consistently against his well-regarded peers.
The right-handed hitting Howard has displayed average power to this point, but scouts see a frame that could easily add strength and produce better power numbers down the road. Among the players measured by the Perfect Game scouting service, he produced maximum barrel speeds in the 98th percentile.
Hailing from a northern state, Howard never got into game action this spring before the season was shut down due to COVID-19. This has raised the idea that Howard may drop in the draft, as scouts were not able to view any improvement he may have made in the offseason. He is currently rated as the 15th best prospect by MLB Pipeline and 20th by Baseball America.
Despite these ratings, he consistently is projected to go later in the draft and could be too good to pass on if he reaches the Yankees with the 28th pick. He is committed to the University of Oklahoma, which could give teams pause as they try to stay within their bonus pool allotments.
Another player who should be on the Yankee’ radar is University of Arkansas shortstop Casey Martin. He was in the discussion as a top half of the first-round talent heading into the season, but his draft status took a hit during his 15 games this season.
Just by looking at his raw numbers, it would seem like an obvious choice to draft an up-the-middle player who slashed .310/.389/.542 with 30 home runs in 148 college games. Martin is also considered one of the best athletes in this draft. The downside is that scouts do not see the refined player that you would hope after several years in one of the better college programs.
Martin has an aggressive approach, and his strikeout rate climbed each season in college. Through the early part of the 2020 season, he was striking out 31% of the time, and he holds a 24% rate for his career.
He has taken launch angle to an extreme, and some scouts think that his whole swing will have to be re-tooled if he wants to make it to the major-league level. There are questions if his home-run power will translate with a wooden bat as his extreme-loft approach might have benefitted more than most from the aluminum bat.
Despite hitting 30 home runs in college, it is Martin’s speed that is his most impressive tool. He grades out in the 70-75 range near the top of the 20-80 scouting scale. In college he stole 24 bases in 27 chances, but he is still not considered polished with this skill.
He’s inconsistent defensively, mixing in bad throws due to poor footwork with highlight-reel plays. He could end up switching off of the shortstop position.
Martin played third base as a freshman, and could be an outstanding defender at the position. Physically he moves like the young version of Dustin Pedroia which makes picturing him as a second baseman very easy. Other scouts see his elite speed and get visions of him running down fly balls in centerfield, a position he played in scrimmages with Team USA last summer.
Martin is ranked as the 38th best draft prospect by Baseball America and 30th by MLB Pipeline. If he is available the Yankees may be willing to take a chance on the athlete and his incredible upside.
The Yankees have stocked up on talented shortstops in their system over the last few seasons. If they choose to continue this trend then both Ed Howard and Casey Martin will be on the Yankees’ draft board as options. While neither is a sure bet to reach the Yankees, some projections have both being available when the Yankees pick with 28th overall, and it would be hard to pass on their upside.