Gauging Shairon Martis

With all the ridiculous, pointless, annoying dynasty trade threads around, I wanted a legitimate conversation that could actually be interesting.

Let's talk about Shairon Martis- about how his development has gone, how to gauge him in relation to other prospects, and what to expect in the future.


Looking over Shairon Martis' minor league career

One of two young back-end starters for Washington, Martis is a bit of an enigma.  He's never had overpowering stuff, usually keeping a K% in the teens.  His control has been erratic, with BB%s as low as ~5% and as high as ~9%.  The Nationals moved him quickly in 2008, and out of nowhere, Martis gained significant boosts to his strikeouts at every promotion.

Martis signed in 2004 with the Giants as an international free agent, coming out of the Netherlands.  After spending a couple years in San Francisco's system, he was moved to Washington in exchange for Mike Stanton.  Since then, the Nationals have moved him aggressively.  They kept him at high-A in 2007, but 2008 saw him promoted twice.  He ended the year in the majors, as Washington's #5 starter.

Despite a minor league career of about 400 innings, Martis really does not have a constant trend in his numbers.  You could make an argument that he was a control-heavy pitcher, but he's steadily lost control as he's been promoted.  You could make an argument that he was a strikeout pitcher, but he only started racking them up significantly in small sample sizes late last season.

Further mucking the numbers is Martis' age.  He was the youngest pitcher in AAA last season, at 21.  ARL is usually an excuse for failure, so it's really confusing to see that he suddenly started succeeding when ARL started getting noticeably significant.  Small sample sizes are probably to blame here, but it's still an interesting abberation.


Ranking Martis versus other pitching prospects

For the most part, Martis has not been ranked by the usual major publications on overall top prospect lists.  Jon gave Martis a B- in 2006, a B in 2007, and a C+ in both 2008 and 2009.  He didn't make BA's Top 100 this year, nor did he make BP's.  He did, however, place #93 on Project Prospect's annual Top 200.  The pitchers on either side of Martis on that list are James Simmons and Mat Latos, and I think I'd take Martis at this point over either.

However, I don't know how I would justify putting Martis on a Top 100 list.  He's just not that good, ceiling-wise.  He didn't make my personal Top 150, although he'd probably sneak into the back end now that the Nationals have shown so much faith in him.

The thing is, Martis doesn't have a plus pitch in his arsenal.  His fastball only maxed out in the high 80s before last season, when it suddenly started hitting 93-94.  I hear his changeup is good, and probably his best breaking pitch.  Martis also has a curveball and slider in his repertoire, though both are said to be inconsistent.


What to expect from Martis going forward

On the one hand, if he really has added ~5 MPH to his fastball, it's not unreasonable to expect Martis to continue adding strikeouts to his game.  On the other hand, I'm not sure that I'd side with the 60 innings at AAA and MLB if I was forced to choose.  So what's a reasonable expectation for Shairon Martis in 2009?  Honestly, he might be the hardest MLB SP to project this year.

My guess- and it's just that, a guess- would be something like a 130/70 K/BB in 180 innings.  I would be surprised if he could keep his WHIP below 1.4, but it shouldn't get above 1.5.  That's not great, but it's definitely better than anything else the Nationals have to offer.  I don't think there's any doubt that he'll stay in the Nat's rotation the entire year, but there is always potential for injury with a 22 year old starter in a full MLB season.  It is worth noting that Martis' current career high for IP in a season is 151.


What do you think about Martis' erratic stats in the past, and what do you expect from him in the majors in 2009 and beyond?