Top Fantasy Prospect for 2012: Texas Rangers Outfielder Leonys Martin

Today, I continue my series of articles where I cover one fantasy prospect from each of John's Top 20 Prospect Lists who could have an impact on fantasy rosters in 2012. I covered Shelby Miller from the St. Louis Cardinals in Saturday's article, and today I discuss the Rangers top fantasy prospect for 2012 - Leonys Martin.

Leonys Martin - OF

John ranked Martin as his #3 prospect in the Rangers system for 2012, and here is an excerpt from his Top 20 List:

3) Leonys Martin, OF, Grade B: Should have a long career due to defense and speed, but I'm not confident enough in his bat to stick a "+" on his grade just yet.

Martin made just 8 at bats with the Rangers big league team in 2011, so he is still considered rookie eligible. John wrote his scouting report on Martin back on June 7, 2011, and he nailed his outlook for the 2011 season. Here is an excerpt from his midseason scouting report:

The Rangers expect Martin to be ready for the majors within a year, and the early returns from Frisco do nothing to dispute this. He could move up to Triple-A by mid-summer, and a September promotion is possible if the Rangers want to get a look at their big investment before 2012. I would rate him as a solid Grade B prospect right now, with a B+ by the end of the year if he maintains this level of performance.

Rangers GM Jon Daniels must have read John's report as Martin was promoted to AAA around midseason, and had a September cup of coffee as well. More on Martin after the jump:

Let's take a closer look at how Martin performed at 3 levels in the minors in 2011, courtesy of Baseball-Reference:

Year Lev G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 AAA-AA-Rk 73 302 53 89 16 5 4 42 19 11 27 38 .295 .362 .421 .783 127
2011 Rk 4 15 2 4 0 2 0 1 0 1 1 6 .267 .313 .533 .846 8
2011 AA 29 112 24 39 9 2 4 24 10 8 15 8 .348 .435 .571 1.007 64
2011 AAA 40 175 27 46 7 1 0 17 9 2 11 24 .263 .316 .314 .630 55
1 Season 73 302 53 89 16 5 4 42 19 11 27 38 .295 .362 .421 .783 127
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/3/2011.

Martin does not appear to be much of a power hitter, even though he slugged ,571 in 112 Double A at bats this season. He hit just 4 home runs, along with 9 doubles and 2 triples, but does have some speed. He attempted a steal in 30 of his approximately 91 times on first base, so he will have to attempt more stolen bases, and become more efficient to be an asset to fantasy owners in 2012. But, he apparently is an excellent fielding center fielder, and could push the Rangers to move Josh Hamilton to left field on a permanent basis, to allow Hamilton to play a less demanding position and keep his bat in the lineup every day.

Martin does have an excellent eye at the plate, as his 38-27 K/BB rate would indicate. But one area of concern for me is the dropoff in his performance after moving up from AA to AAA this season. He showed improvement on the base paths, but his triple slash line dropped from a .348-.435-.571 line in AA to a .263-.316-.314 line in AAA, so he may need more time in AAA in 2012.

T.R. Sullivan, the Rangers beat writer from MLB.com, recently wrote about the team's needs this offseason with the Winter Meetings coming up tomorrow:

Center field: The Rangers had four center fielders in 2011: Josh Hamilton, Craig Gentry, Endy Chavez and Julio Borbon. They also signed Cuban defector Leonys Martin, who has just a half-season of Minor League experience, but they prefer Hamilton in left.

He went on to say that Martin may not be ready to be a big league regular, but the fact that they signed him to a 5 year, $15.5 million contract last spring tells me that they may give him a bit more time in AAA to start the 2012 season, but I can see him getting an early season call up to play center field on a regular basis.

The Rangers want Josh Hamilton's bat in the lineup everyday, so a move to left field is inevitable, and could open up a spot in center field for the #3 prospect in their system in 2012.

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