Prospect of the Day: Leonys Martin, OF, Texas Rangers
While all of the baseball world's attention is drawn to the 2011 draft, remember that teams have other sources of talent, too, namely the international market. The Texas Rangers made a splash this spring by signing Cuban defector Leonys Martin to a five-year, $15.5 million free agent contact.
A 23-year-old center fielder, Martin is a left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower. With the bat, he is a line drive hitter with a good feel for the strike zone and strong contact abilities. Although he's not a huge home run hitter, he has significant pop to the gaps, will hit plenty of doubles, and could hit 10-15 homers a year in time. His running speed isn't spectacular but rates as above average, and he has the instincts to use it well. Likewise, both his throwing arm and outfield defense rate as above average, and he is a fine defender in center field.
Martin has played well in his first 20 minor league games, hitting .338/.419/.538 in 80 at-bats for Double-A Frisco in the Texas League. He's drawn 11 walks with just six strikeouts so far. While the sample is small, this does match the scouting reports about his contact/discipline style of hitting. He's stolen eight bases but has also been caught four times, but scouts don't expect stealing efficiency to be a long-term problem.
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.