Friday evening, I took in my annual July 4th weekend Hickory Crawdads game. While most of the fireworks I was looking forward to seeing I expected to come off the bats of the Greenville Drive’s top bats Yoan Moncada and Rafael Devers, I was rather surprised by the Crawdads young pitcher Brett Martin.
A sloppy performance by the Crawdads would prevent Martin from getting his 2015 record to 4-2, but walking away with the loss last night really overshadowed a solid performance by the promising 20-year old. The 6 foot 4, 190 pound lefty was drafted just last June in the fourth round. He split his second half 2014 debut in the Arizona League (Rookie level) between the bullpen and starting rotation to mixed results. This season, he has settled in as a starter.
Despite the loss dropping Martin to 3-3 this season, his peripheral numbers after this game remain very promising. He has posted a 2.73 ERA, with a 0.99 WHIP striking out 45 over 59.1 innings while walking just 13 batters on the year. Martin already seems like a polished strike thrower who doesn’t allow many opportunities to score with batters hitting just .221 against him.
Martin had the daunting task of facing Red Sox top prospect Yoan Moncada to start the game. Moncada was everything advertised in his at bats, going 1-for-4 on the night. Each at bat he made solid contact, but the first at bat was his best. Martin wasn’t intimidated.
Martin came out and got ahead of Moncada by getting him down 0-2. This was Martin’s calling card all night as he rarely fell behind a hitter in his 6.2 innings of work. After battling off two foul balls, Moncada drilled Martin’s sixth offering deep to center field, short hopping the 400-foot sign. Moncada flew around the bases, landing at third base with ease. He would score on a very close and questionable play at the plate on a sacrifice fly two batters later and put the Crawdads and Martin in an early hole.
It didn’t effect Martin negatively. He would allow another run (unearned) in the second, but would then settle in nicely, setting down 14 of 15 batters while throwing ten pitches or less in four consecutive innings. And he was in the strike zone all night, as I mentioned, rarely falling behind batters. Until a wild seventh inning in which he threw as many balls as he had in the previous three innings combined, Martin was landing 77-percent of his pitches for strikes. He would finish the night in the zone 69-percent of the time. He worked an efficient and quick game.
Martin’s fastball consistently sat at 92 all night, topping out at 93 as late as the seventh, and bottoming out at 90 or 91 a few times. His curve had a nasty bite and he got a few people to chase it going away. It sat in the low to mid-80s most of the evening as well. His change has a bit of a sink to it.
This video from spring training by Scott Lucas gives us a good look at his delivery from behind home plate.
The curve and change spent a few times in the dirt throughout the evening, giving the Crawdads third baseman turned catcher Jonathan Meyer some difficulty. It lead to one wild pitch and a strike three that got away from Meyer with a runner on second. Meyer would overthrow first base attempting to complete the strikeout, which led to a run scored and left the winning run on third. Martin would lose the game 4-3 behind three unearned runs.
Another promising factor, especially if Martin sticks at the hitter friendly confines of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, is that his sink and cutting action provided a huge disparity in ground outs to fly outs. The 11-3 ground out to fly out ratio helped eliminate any threats as the leadoff triple by Moncada was probably the hardest hit ball all evening. It also explains how he has also allowed just three home runs in 59.1 innings this season.
Martin started off shaky on the mound defensively. He botched a pickoff attempt at second base and threw the ball to center field early on which would lead to an unearned run, but then as with his pitching, he seemingly got more comfortable. He fielded two sharp come backers cleanly and swiftly, as well as getting the lead runner on a failed sacrifice bunt attempt by the Drive later in the game.
Martin’s big frame and pretty sound delivery shows that the 20-year old, who already seemingly possesses great control, has room to develop, especially in the power department. His delivery is somewhat deceptive, but he finishes his motion coming at home plate with good form. While the Texas Rangers 24th rated prospect won’t be in their starting rotation next season, he appears to have the goods of a Major League middle of the rotation arm who is probably still two years away.
This video from Seven Future Hit is from last summer but provides another angle on his mechanics.