Leonys Martin has potential, and a lot of it. When the Rangers signed the young outfielder from Cuba in 2011, they had hopes he'd be the everyday center fielder in Arlington. That is exactly what Leonys is at this point. Now the Rangers are hoping that Martin will take a step forward at the plate and become the hitting star that many scouts project he will be.
At the Major League level, Leonys has struggled at times. At the minor league level, particularly AAA Round Rock, Leonys hit at a .318 clip in 406 at-bats. Obviously, that is not the ultimate barometer to measure him, but the potential to be a very good hitter is there.
Looking back on last year, Martin was a free swinger at the plate. Pitch selection was not a strong point with only 28 walks, just 5.5 percent, and a strikeout rate of 20.5 percent in 508 plate appearances. Needless to say, striking out in 20% of your plate appearances is far from ideal. The good news in looking back on 2013 is that Leonys was hitting .297 at the beginning of June. Of course everyone knows what happened after that to Martin and the rest of the Ranger offense.
Martin has only eight home runs in his big league career, all last season. The book on Leonys is that he can be an 18-20 home run producer. Again, the potential is there and he has shown flashes of power. We all remember the walk-off, opposite-field line drive home run against the Los Angeles Angels.
We are only three games into 2014, so the sample is miniscule. However, a lot can be said for the approach Martin has had at the plate. Leonys looks more comfortable and much more confident so far. Again, with only 13 plate appearances, judging what we've seen, is like proclaiming a movie is excellent after watching the previews.
On Wednesday Norm Hitzges of Sports Radio 1310 'The Ticket' was asked about Leonys and his potential to have a breakout year. Norm responded with, 'I just have to see it.'
I believe we are seeing the start of something special in Leonys. With two walks in 13 plate appearances, that is a great start to 2014. The power, the average and the patience will only get better.
Leonys Martin will be a star someday. This may be the year we see it all come together.
Patrick Despain is a lifelong baseball fan who enjoys talking the 'great game.' He is the co-founder and former CEO of ShutDownInning.com. You can reach Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @PatrickDespain.