An eighth-round selection by the Astros in the 2013 MLB Draft, the former Orange Lutheran High School standout is beginning to look like a steal. At 5’11”, Martin doesn’t jump out at you at first, but he is well built, with strong shoulders and solid lower half. His compact stroke and quick hands cause the ball to really jump off his bat, generating tremendous backspin. Last night, vs. recently signed Cuban right-hander Yasiel Sierra(RHP, Rancho Cucamonga), Marin took a 95 mph FB running away from him and lined it over the wall to straightaway left field (about 380 ft). Such a feat is not terribly uncommon when the pitch is up and on the outer half; what made Martin’s shot stand out was that it was a very good pitch–plus velo at the knees on the outer 3rd with hard sink going away from his left-handed bat…that’s hard to do folks. He followed that up with another rocket to left on another similar fastball, and then did a great job keeping his hands back and barreling up a slider down, even after he was fooled. He is a plus athlete and shows great feel for the barrel. The knock on him last year was that he lacked power and, I assume due to his size, made it hard to project a whole lot more of it developing. What a difference a year makes, because with 11 jacks as of June 16th, he has already surpassed his total from his last three seasons combined. Add in the 11 doubles and four triples this year, and you get a .900 OPS for a kid that has yet to turn 21 years old.
He is not just an offensive player either; he runs well and has good instincts in both corner outfield spots. On a flare down the left-field line last night, he was shaded towards the gap and not only covered the ground to make the catch, but got himself into perfect throwing position to make a strong throw back to 2nd base, almost doubling off the surprised base runner. His gait down the line is a little bit stiff even though he managed to run a 4.19 from the left side, but his strides lengthen out on defense and seem to play up the speed at least a half a grade.
This is not to say he is ready for Houston, however; he owns a 24% K rate right now, almost 10% higher than last year, playing in the Class A Midwest League. Some of this can be attributed to the higher level this year, and the better breaking ball command that he is facing, but that is still high for a player that will need to make consistent contact to reach his ceiling. That said, the game is about making adjustments, and considering the ingredients that he had on display in Rancho this week, I see a lot of reason to believe that he will do just that in the second half of the summer. You may recall the little left-handed outfielder the Twins took in the 13th round of the 1991 MLB Draft who turned out to be a hell of a hitter with great carry to the big part of the field; it’s far too early to say this kid is Matt Lawton, but the tools are similar. I plan to get another couple looks at him this weekend vs. Bakersfield, so look for my full report on him early next week.