The Texas Rangers have built their farm system through investments in the International market and high upside draft picks. Texas prefers athletic players with loud tools as an organizational philosophy. Through the years, the Rangers have had a reputation for finding and developing sluggers, especially from Latin America, while struggling to develop starting pitching.
Though the system has been plundered recently through trades to help the big league club, the Rangers still have several enticing prospects we will be featuring through the coming days.
Numbers never lie.
That doesn’t always mean they tell the truth.
Consider the case of Rangers prospect lefty Brett Martin. The Tennessee native is a 4th round draft pick from 2014 entering his age 22 season with a trio of minor league seasons under his belt. He’s a name you hear a lot, but what do you find when you look at his stats?
A bunch of average.
In 200 minor league innings, Martin has an ERA just north of 4. At every level in 2016, Martin allowed more hits than innings pitched which resulted in a .300 average against. The strikeout numbers are nice, but not dominating. There’s nothing on the stat sheet that leaps off the page, exclaiming “This is a player that will make lots of money.”
So why’s he on the list?
Martin is a great example of a player that isn’t well defined by numbers alone in this stage of his career. People who have seen him pitch don’t talk about his WHIP or anything like that. They see a big bodied lefty who has three pitches, all three with characteristics that can play at the big leagues one day. He’s a guy who can generate ground balls, on good nights command the mound like a veteran, and is still young enough to make Frisco without it raising a red flag.
Or in a sentence, all things the stats can’t tell you.
I’m a huge fan of the numbers revolution in baseball. There’s no downside to finding new ways to quantify how good a player is (or isn’t). Knowledge is power, and the ability to rip the mask off uncertainty bathing it in the light of understanding is something we should all support. Those who don’t are clinging to vestiges of a time gone by; shouting to the world statements of dubious truth as their relevance and accuracy sink into the sands of time and higher understanding.
When dealing with young players like Martin, whose current existence isn’t numbers based but improvement based, the numbers aren’t as relevant. Sure, it’d be great to see Martin posting up a great ERA with sizzling strikeouts and all the measurable metrics we come to expect from high level pitching prospects. That’s not where he’s at though.
In fact, a lot of the issues with Martin's numbers could be attributed to the fact that his development has come in fits and starts due to untimely nagging injuries. Martin's career high total for innings pitched in a season is just 95 1/3 innings in 2015.
Martin is a timely example that while we should love and embrace numbers, there are instances where they can’t be our end all be all. That just because a young player in the minors has numbers that aren’t all that doesn’t mean his potential isn’t all that.
Because while those numbers aren’t lying, they’re not telling the whole truth.
Notes to know:
Vital Stats: 6’4”, 190 lbs. entering his age 22 season
Best pitch: There are three viable choices here, but his curveball is my pick. Martin’s curveball has been a decent to above average out pitch in the minor leagues. You likely won’t see it get much faster than 85 MPH, but with a fastball that sits between 90-93 MPH it provides a nice velo change that can confuse hitters. Like all his pitches, it needs work but the potential for his hook should make Texas officials giddy and opposing hitters gloomy.
What he’s good at: Getting ground balls. So far in his minor league career, Martin has leaned on his defense. All of his pitches can induce grounders in various way, and so far it’s been a great tool in Martin’s arsenal. The fastball can cut, the curveball and changeup both drop causing hitters trying to elevate the ball fits.
What needs work: Lowering his hits allowed. When a pitcher gets a lot of ground balls, they allow hitters to make a lot of contact. Sometimes, the fielders don’t get there. This has been the case for Martin early in his career, with 213 hits allowed in 200 innings.
He’s going to need to generate more swings and misses going forward, because as the hitters get better that ratio will only get worse. Plus, while ground balls are great strikeouts are better. That’s a fact.
2017 outlook: Martin’s development will continue below decks this season. He’s had two trips through Hickory and a single stint in the now defunct High Desert. While you could start him in Frisco this year, it seems better for all involved to put him at Kinston to start his campaign.
There’s still plenty for Martin to prove at that level, and if he gets hot before the summer he can book his trip to Frisco. I’d be surprised if Martin wasn’t a fixture in the Roughrider rotation to end 2017. The only ways that doesn’t happen is if he gets hurt, or he gets traded. Any other option means bad things.
Overall outlook: Not unlike fellow top prospect Cole Ragans, Martin is a big lefty with three pitches and good makeup. He’s just more advanced down the development road by virtue of experience. That said, Martin has all the looks of a #3 starter who MIGHT get to a #2 if every little thing breaks right.
When you combine “throws left handed” with “throws three pitches that all look at least above average,” that equals “career earnings between $50-75M.”
If the pitches don’t reach their full potential, there’s no reason to believe he can’t carve out a niche as that lefty starter who continues to get two year contracts worth $10M dollars to fill out a good rotation. There’s plenty of time for Martin to hit that ceiling, but there’s few reasons based on what we’ve seen to date that he won’t.
Click below for more of our Top 15 Prospect List:
Want more prospect talk? Follow Samuel on Twitter @thesamuelhale.