This summer’s MLB Draft is expected to pick apart the top-ranked Arkansas baseball signing class, with Walker Martin being one of many prospects the pros are after.
The heralded shortstop from Eaton, Colo., could be drafted as high as the first round next month, but he hasn’t closed the door entirely on playing for the Razorbacks.
“It’s starting to get closer, but we’ll see what happens there,” Martin said in an interview on “Out of Bounds,” the afternoon radio show on 103.7 The Buzz. “As of now, I’ve signed a letter of intent to play at Arkansas next year and that’s the only thing I’m looking forward to. I’m pumped about coming to school, but we’ll see what happens. But I’m excited to be a Hog.”
Getting Martin on campus would be a huge get for Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn, as he is widely considered one of the top 50 prospects in the 2023 MLB Draft and was tabbed the Colorado Player of the Year by both MaxPreps and Gatorade.
The Razorbacks already beat out Texas – his favorite team from childhood because it’s where Troy Tulowitzki played before and coached after his All-Star career with the Colorado Rockies – for his signature. Now, though, they are going up against 30 MLB teams with deep pockets.
“It’s going to have to take a lot to get me out of going to college,” Martin said. “There’s been some conversations about going on (to the draft), but we’ll just see. Honestly, it has to be the best opportunity for me, but as of now, I’m really looking forward to taking that spot (at) Arkansas.”
What exactly “a lot” and “best opportunity” mean to Martin is probably something only he and his family know, but unfortunately for Van Horn and Arkansas, there’s a good chance a team checks those boxes next month.
In recent mock drafts by Baseball America and Joe Doyle of Future Star Series, Martin is projected to go 16th overall to the San Francisco Giants. MLB Pipeline’s latest mock draft from Jonathan Mayo acknowledged the “buzz” about him and the Giants, but had him slipping to No. 32 overall to the New York Mets.
The slot values for those picks range from about $2.6 million (No. 32) to $4.3 million (No. 16). As a high school kid, Martin would have enough leverage to garner at least that much, if not more, if a team drafts him in the first round.
One thing working in Arkansas’ favor is the fact that he’d be a draft-eligible sophomore because he’s already 19 and would be 21 by the time the 2025 MLB Draft rolls around, meaning he’d have to spend just two years in college.
There’s also been a growing trend of highly-touted high school prospects going to college in recent years – something the Razorbacks experienced with Peyton Stovall and Jayson Jones in the last two classes. Stovall is believed to have turned down roughly $2 million to come to school.
It’s not just at Arkansas, either. Last year, Perfect Game’s top-100 recruits included 57 who played college baseball — a significant increase from the 33 who did so a decade earlier in the Class of 2012.
That’s good news for Van Horn because 13 of his 20 signees are ranked among the top 100 on Perfect game – with nine of them also on MLB Pipeline’s list of the top 200 prospects for the 2023 MLB Draft, which includes college players.
Checking in at No. 36, Martin is one of those 13 players. He’s actually the second-highest ranked player in Arkansas’ historic signing class, behind only Aidan Miller (No. 6), and – assuming it holds – he’d be the Razorbacks’ sixth-highest ranked recruit to make it to campus since Perfect Game started its rankings in 2008.
If that aforementioned 57% rate holds true for the Razorbacks, they’ll get seven or eight of those top-100 recruits to Fayetteville – way more than their current high of three in one class. If one of them is Martin, it would be a significant development because of his potential.
Ed Henderson, a 30-year veteran MLB scout in Colorado who has worked for the Marlins, Pirates and Twins, didn’t hold back on his opinion of Martin in a recent interview with The Denver Post.
“The raw talent is there and we’ve certainly seen that, and I don’t think there’s any question about the fact that he’s going to be an impact guy in the majors,” Henderson said.
Listen to the full Walker Martin interview here:
Walker Martin Scouting Report
A three-sport star at Eaton High, a small school just east of Fort Collins, Colo., Walker Martin won six state titles — three straight in both football and baseball — during his illustrious high school career.
He was the Reds’ starting quarterback and accounted for 41 total touchdowns while leading them to the third of those championships on the gridiron, which was capped by knocking off No. 1 seed Delta in the Class 2A title game.
On the hardwood, the 6-foot-2, 188-pound Martin averaged 14.6 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.2 steals as a junior before deciding not to play this year in order to focus on baseball.
That proved to be a great decision because he used that time to hit the weight room, resulting in him hitting a nation-leading 20 home runs during Eaton’s perfect 29-0 season. The Reds won those games by an average of 12.2 runs and 21 of them, including the championship, ended via mercy rule. That dominance has been the case for three years since the pandemic wiped out Martin’s freshman season, as they’ve gone 78-3 and won 41 straight games.
At one point this season, he homered in nine straight games, which was one shy of tying the national record. On top of the power, Martin — who hits from the left side — also hit .633 with 75 RBIs.
Needless to say, his future is on the diamond. Obligations in other sports made him somewhat unknown from a national perspective, though, until he burst onto the scene at the Area Code Games in San Diego last summer, when he led the prestigious event in balls hit with an exit velocity of at least 100 mph.
Joe Doyle of Future Star Series slotted him at No. 25 in his ranking of this summer’s top 600 MLB Draft prospects earlier this week.
“Martin is a super-athletic, tooled-up, top-of-the-class performer with a lefty bat and a feel for the barrel,” Doyle wrote. “There’s a lot of projection here, but the tools are already showing out in a loud way with top-of-the-class bat speed and a proficiency for exit velocities. Evaluators believe this will be at least above average raw power at its peak.”
Taking the time to focus on baseball has resulted in more and more scouts buying into his potential to hit at the next level, despite the relatively low level of competition in high school.
Martin’s rapid ascent is reflected on MLB Pipeline, which had him at No. 71 on its top-200 prospects list just two months ago, but now have him all the way up to No. 28.
“He has a good swing with excellent rhythm at the plate, showing no difficulty in squaring up balls against elite competition, albeit in a very small sample size,” his scouting report on MLB Pipeline reads. “The 6-foot-2 infielder has a lean build with plenty of room to add more strength and power.”
The biggest question seems be where Martin will end up defensively. Considering his power, he might profile best at third base, but most outlets still consider him a shortstop because of his athleticism.
“Defensively, Martin has quality arm strength and speed, allowing him to cover plenty of ground at shortstop,” wrote Dan Zielinski III of Baseball Prospect Journal. “He makes all the necessary plays at the position, but scouts believe he might be better suited at third base in the future.”
The Athletic’s Keith Law is lower on Martin than most, but still has him at No. 54 on his list of the top 100 prospects for the 2023 MLB Draft that came out last week.
What it Would Mean for Arkansas Baseball
Since Dave Van Horn took over the Arkansas baseball program, just one true freshman has been the Razorbacks’ full-time starting shortstop – and that was way back in 2007 (Tim Smalling).
That could change in 2024, as Walker Martin is the caliber of player who could start from Day 1 if he makes it to campus and Arkansas has a need at shortstop.
John Bolton was a super senior this past season and his backup, Harold Coll, entered the transfer portal on Monday. That left the Razorbacks without a true shortstop on the roster. Guys like Peyton Stovall, Peyton Holt and Jayson Jones played the position in high school, but are better suited at other infield spots at this level.
If Martin goes pro straight out of high school, Van Horn will likely turn to the transfer portal for his next shortstop. Cooper Weiss from Miami (Ohio), the 2023 MAC Defensive Player of the Year, is already set to visit Fayetteville this week and several other options could be among the 2,000-plus players looking for new homes.
Even if he makes it to campus and the Razorbacks still bring in a transfer shortstop, Martin could slide over to third base, where some scouts believe he may end up as a professional. However, there are only a limited number of infield spots – and one designated hitter – for the likes of Stovall, Holt, Jones, Ben McLaughlin and Reece Robinett.
That could lead to Van Horn experimenting like he did with Cayden Wallace in 2021. A natural third baseman with elite athleticism, he ended up starting in right field as a true freshman to allow Cullen Smith to play third base.
Like Wallace, Martin’s bat is expected to be too good to keep out of the lineup. Plus, as a draft-eligible sophomore, Arkansas would have a small window to get the most out of his time in Fayetteville – also like Wallace and former first-round picks Zack Cox and Andrew Benintendi.
In his interview on Out of Bounds, Martin mentioned that one of his strengths is his defensive versatility, but said the coaches have indicated they’d leave him at shortstop if he comes to school.
“We’ve had conversations and it sounds like they want to keep me at the shortstop position,” Martin said. “I’m pumped about it. I’m going to be able to work with Coach Van Horn on that and get as many reps as I can to compete for that spot next year.”
Other Tidbits on Walker Martin
One coach whom Walker Martin credits for the development of his swing and confidence at the plate is Mike Anderson.
No, not that one.
This Mike Anderson does have a connection to the Razorbacks, though. He was an assistant coach for Dave Van Horn during his entire five-year tenure at Nebraska and was actually hired as his replacement when Van Horn left for Arkansas.
Following a stint as an assistant at Oklahoma, Anderson left the Division I ranks and started working for Prep Baseball Report (PBR) as the Colorado Scouting Director. Martin was one of his pupils for close to four years before becoming Northern Colorado’s head coach last summer.
Interestingly enough, one of Anderson’s assistants at Northern Colorado is Shane Opitz, the older brother of former Arkansas catcher Casey Opitz.
Speaking of Opitz, he and Martin are part of an unusual Colorado-to-Arkansas pipeline. Since 2008, the Razorbacks have signed at least nine players from the Centennial State.
Two of them – Tyler Sample (2008) and Greg Bird (2011) – were selected in the MLB Draft and never made it to campus, while two others – Pierce Trumper (2010) and Bryce Matthews (2019) – spent just one year in Fayetteville before transferring out.
Derrick Bleeker (2009) and Opitz (2017) got drafted following their time with Arkansas baseball, while Christian Foutch (2022) and Ben McLaughlin (JUCO signee) are still on the team.
Top Arkansas Baseball Recruits who Made it to Campus
|Perfect Game Ranking
Arkansas Baseball Signees in Class of 2024
- RHP Jaewoo Cho
- RHP Jonah Conradt
- LHP Colin Fisher
- C/UTL Nate Franco
- RHP Gabe Gaeckle
- OF Kendall George
- LHP Adam Hachman
- C Ryder Helfrick
- LHP Tucker Holland
- RHP Barrett Kent
- INF Walker Martin
- RHP Tate McGuire
- INF Aidan Miller
- RHP Dylan Questad
- INF/RHP Diego Ramos
- LHP Jack Smith
- INF/RHP Kade Smith
- INF Nolan Souza
- C/INF Ty Waid
- INF Nazzan Zanetello
Check out some highlights of Arkansas baseball signee Walker Martin:
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