Martinez, Schmitt react to shortened MLB draft

Then-sphomore+third+baseman+Casey+Schmitt+makes+a+bareheaded+throw+to+first+base+for+the+out+during+the+Aztecs%E2%80%99+5-4+victory+over+Air+Force+on+April+20%2C+2019+at+Tony+Gwynn+Stadium.+

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Then-sphomore third baseman Casey Schmitt makes a bareheaded throw to first base for the out during the Aztecs’ 5-4 victory over Air Force on April 20, 2019 at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

by Reese Savoie, Staff Writer

Recreational, collegiate and professional sports came to a sudden halt earlier this year with the onset of the coronavirus. 

San Diego State’s baseball program was no exception. After being projected to finish first in the Mountain West Conference, the team was forced to suspend their season shortly after it began, finishing 10-6 overall. 

However, seasons weren’t the only thing shortened by the global pandemic. 

On the professional level, the 2020 MLB Draft also took a hit, with its usual 40 rounds being reduced to just five. 

SDSU baseball head coach Mark Martinez says the abbreviated draft leaves much up to the imagination. 

“There’s so many moving parts with only having five rounds,” Martinez told The Daily Aztec. 

“Right now what you’re seeing moving into the draft is a lot of posturing, and probably higher profile guys that might be in the third to fifth round that might not sign because of it,” Martinez added. 

As a result of the shortened draft, teams will be given an unlimited number of free agent signings up to $20,000. 

This will be an important factor in players’ decisions to go pro or continue playing collegiate baseball, as $20,000 is only a fraction of what a sixth-round (and beyond) draft pick, and undrafted free agents, would receive under normal circumstances. 

This rings especially true for redshirt athletes. 

With this year cut short, the 2020 season’s redshirt juniors will be returning to the Mesa for their senior campaign still as redshirt juniors. 

Martinez says this could lead these players to a crossroads. 

“We don’t know if a kid is thinking, ‘Well that might be a better path for me to get to the big leagues, or do I wait another year? Even though I have a junior next to my name, they’ll know I’m still a senior age,’” Martinez said. 

“So, will Major League Baseball draft them accordingly?” he added. 

Financially, major league teams could be looking to draft more seasoned collegiate players as opposed to selecting high school athletes. 

This could be beneficial for college ball. Incoming freshmen will opt to play for their university as the professional franchises take on more juniors and seniors. 

“(Big league clubs) might not want to spend that money on a high school player this year, and kind of, you know, defer to college and let them train in the next three years and see how they pan out,” Martinez said. 

Despite all of the unknowns regarding this year’s draft, one thing remains consistent: Aztec junior third baseman and pitcher Casey Schmitt. 

Schmitt’s athleticism and talent on the diamond have not gone unnoticed, and the MLB has him ranked 117th out of their top 200 draft prospects. 

Schmitt finished the 2020 season with a .323 batting average, .452 slugging percentage and .386 on-base percentage, in addition to collecting 20 hits and 9 RBIs. 

Defensively, Schmitt ended his junior campaign with an ERA of 3.75. 

Schmitt was also added to USA Baseball’s Golden Spikes Award Watch List earlier this year. 

Martinez projects Schmitt to be a top draft pick, most likely getting picked up anywhere between the second and fourth round. 

He also says Schmitt’s duality as both a pitcher and hitter is a huge asset to him going into the draft. 

“That makes him very attractive, I think, to professional scouts,” Martinez said. 

Despite his strength as a pitcher, Martinez sees Schmitt being drafted as a hitter before moving onto the mound. 

“I think what they’re gonna do is draft him as a hitter, but I think he’s still gonna train as a pitcher moving through,” he said. “He might not throw any games, you know, the first season or maybe even the second season, but I think moving forward, depending on how the hitting is going.” 

Regardless, his utility serves as a catalyst for success in the big leagues. 

“It’s a great opportunity to have a guy that has a major league-type arm too, so they see that as a bonus,” Martinez said. 

“That really bodes well for him moving to an organization and to have the opportunity to play at a very high level, as a hitter and as a pitcher,” he added. “I’m excited for him.” 

Schmitt shares in Martinez’s excitement, but says that the abbreviated draft has been hard on the organization as a whole. 

“It’s a little tough, you know, especially for everyone in the country,” he said. 

Although the coronavirus has taken its toll on Major League and collegiate baseball alike, it did not compromise Schmitt’s training regimen. 

“I’ve got it pretty well over here,” Schmitt said. “I’ve got a weight set and a batting cage, and I can play catch with my dad and stuff like that.” 

“I’ve been doing everything every day, just trying to get better every single day and stay active, stay in shape,” he added. 

While one’s physical strength and endurance are large factors in their ability to be a successful athlete, Martinez said a player’s mental maturity plays an important role as well. 

Difficult situations allow for the bolstering of an individual’s mental game, and the COVID-19 pandemic has provided these athletes with the perfect opportunity to do just that. 

After initially having their season taken away from them, spring athletes were granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA, marking this time period as somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster. 

“That is a huge thunderbolt to deal with mentally,” Martinez said. “You go through about three weeks of that, and saying, ‘Okay, my career’s over,’ or, ‘Now I don’t have that opportunity to play,’ then of course they come back with, ‘Everyone gets their year back.’ There’s kind of a reboot that we’re going through right now.” 

After going from 100 to zero and back to 100, Martinez has no doubt that his team can take this unprecedented time in stride. 

“The best way I can tell you is that our guys are equipped with that, and they understand how to deal with adversity. They understand how to handle those scenarios,” Martinez said. 

“Now the biggest thing is collectively, as a group, kind of rebooting that mindset and that focus in order to go win a Mountain West Championship and win a regional and get to Omaha,” he added. 

Schmitt says that this obstacle has given him strength in his journey to the big leagues. 

“In baseball, as everyone kind of knows, there’s a lot of roadblocks and a lot of things that happen,” Schmitt said. “That’s kind of how I’m seeing this. You just have to get through and, you know, be strong mentally and just continue to work.” 

Due to this year’s shortened draft, there may be a lack of Scarlet and Black representation when it comes time for teams to select their picks, meaning several veteran athletes will remain on the Mesa for another year. 

This, on top of a particularly skillful incoming freshmen class, makes for an exciting 2021 season. 

“That really makes us an exceptionally strong program going in next year, barring injury and, you know, quirkiness that happens.You know, as long as we don’t screw them up coaching-wise,” he added with a laugh. 

Much like this year, the Aztecs’ upcoming campaign is one that should generate plenty of hype. 

“We should be again making some noise, hopefully, you know, in the top 25 conversation,” Martinez said. 

The 2020 MLB draft will take place Wednesday, June 10 and Thursday, June 11 at 7 p.m. and 4 p.m. ET, respectively.

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