One of the bright spots early in the 2015 season for the Atlanta Braves is the emergence of right-hander Cody Martin as a successful big league reliever. Through 10 relief innings thus far, Martin has allowed just two earned runs for a 1.80 ERA, with an excellent 14/2 K/BB ratio. Much of the pre-season prospect attention in Atlanta was devoted to acquisition of prospects via trade as the new front office sought to boost farm system depth. Martin in contrast received little hype but here he is, the most successful Braves reliever not named Jason Grilli of the early season.
Martin was a seventh round pick in 2011 out of Gonzaga. A starter in the minors, he moved up steadily but gradually with a good success record at each level. Last year he posted a 3.52 ERA with a 142/56 K/BB ratio in 156 innings for Triple-A Gwinnett, solid inning-eating numbers. He has usually not ranked highly on prospect lists because of a mediocre fastball that topped out at 92 and was often in the 80s.
He did show an effective secondary arsenal with a curve, slider, and change-up at his disposal, and even observers skeptical about his future praised his pitching instincts and durability. He did not make the 40-man roster heading into 2015 and he wasn't picked in the Rule 5 draft.
Yet Martin earned his way to the majors this spring and as noted he's been excellent thus far. He is still not burning the radar, topping out at 91.5 MPH with his four-seamer according to PITCH f/x and averaging 89. He still mixes in his slider and curve and a few change-ups, and he hits many different spots on the velocity ladder.
Martin doesn't fit the stereotype of a hard-throwing relief pitcher; his arsenal is still that of a starter and he doesn't have the blow-away velocity that people like to see in the late innings. Instead, he just gets people out by changing speeds and hitting his locations. His main vulnerability in the minors was occasional homer-itis, generally a matter of catching too much of the heart of the plate with a location mistake. Interestingly, both runs he has given up in the majors came on solo homers.
It is early of course; the scouting reports will get around, the hitters will make some adjustments, and then Martin will have to adjust back. So far in his career he's been able to do that when faced with a new challenge. If he remains successful, Martin will deserve a shot at starting at some point.