There were five Cuban-born players selected to the All-Star game, but Leonys Martin wasn’t one of them. He’s on pace for a five-win season (All-Star caliber) yet he has terrible splits, frustrates the manager and the media. In many ways, Martin is an enigma and this is why he is my favorite player to follow day in and day out.
Though he gets overshadowed by the likes of Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Abreu, Martin has plenty of highlights of his own including robbing Nelson Cruz of a homerun on July 2. When the Rangers signed him back in 2011, they envisioned an All-Star centerfielder that could display 20-homerun power.
Keith Law scouting report July 2012:
“I'd imagine he'll be worth five runs or more a year on defense when he gets more reps under his belt, which means it won't take a lot of bat for him to be a solid-average regular. If he does hit, he'll be a star, but there's a lot of work left to do on his swing before that becomes a realistic possibility.”
The power hasn’t matriculated, but he is slightly a below-average hitter with a 94 OPS+ (100 being average).
Manager Ron Washington on Martin:
“He’s a slasher, not an on-base percentage guy. Until he fully learns what he is capable of and how to go about doing it, I try to protect him. That’s all.” – May 6, 2014
“Sometimes, he gets out of control with that arm,” Washington said. “When you’re carrying around something like that, you think you’re invincible.” – May 11, 2014
“He’s still trying to process things,” manager Ron Washington said. “It’s a question of knowing what you should do and when you should do it, and what you shouldn’t do and when you shouldn’t do it. He did a great job of getting on, but there is no excuse you can have for getting picked off there. None. When he does something like that, the first thing that enters my mind is, ‘He’s still got a long way to go,’” Washington added. “But it doesn’t enter my mind in quite those words.” – July 3, 2014
“He’s not hitting lefties very well right now,” Washington said. “I’ve got some right-handed hitters right now to fill those spots. But when we come back, I’ll play [Martin]. He’s one of those players we expect to play every single day. I’ll give him the lefties, and we’ll see what he can do.” – July 9, 2014
Dallas Morning News Columnist Gerry Fraley has this to say in a July 8 chat:
Question: Hi, are you disappointed that Leonys Martin doesn't seem to have progressed much from last year?
Gerry Fraley: “Leonys Martin has not progressed as the club envisioned. At this point, he's pushing it to be a fourth outfielder. Arm is good, but he continues to take bad routes on fly ball. The arm sometimes leads him to make high-risk throws and give up bases behind the play. On offense, his swing is still too big, and he has regressed against left-handers.”
Calling Martin a fourth outfielder seems harsh, but he appears to lack plate discipline at times despite his 2014 strikeout rate of 21.9 percent being only slightly higher than his career (21.7 percent). This season he is walking at a higher rate 7.6% than 2013 (5.5%) and career (6.4 percent).
As for his splits, Martin has been terrible against LHP in 2014:
For his career, Martin has always struggled against LHP:
If Martin’s RHP/LHP splits weren’t enough, he is also a much better hitter at home than on the road.
So what is Martin’s real value? It would appear that if Washington was only to play him at home and against RHP, he would have an OPS higher than Jacoby Ellsbury’s 2014 OPS of .746. Despite his struggles, his AL ranks are as follows among centerfielders: rWAR (4th), stolen bases (t-2nd) and OBP (7th).
If we are to dissect his numbers, a case can be made for platooning Martin, but he is just entering his prime years at age 26 and his overall numbers and display of talent would suggest that he is a playoff-caliber center fielder.
What do you think of Leonys? He isn’t a free agent until 2019, but should the Rangers be looking for an upgrade in center or ride with the second most valuable position player on the team behind Adrian Beltre? We may not know yet whether he is an all-star or platoon player, but one thing for certain: he frustrates fans, media and manager alike.
Eddie Middlebrook also writes for Paranoid Fan as a MLB and College Football contributor. He can be on Twitter @emiddlebrook.