Pittsburgh Pirates: Jason Martin Struggles at Triple-A


The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired four players in the Gerrit Cole trade last winter.  One of them was a prospect who burst onto the scene at Double-A.

Back when the Pittsburgh Pirates sent pitcher Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros, they received four players back in the deal.  Of the four players, only one was considered a true prospect.  That prospect was outfielder Jason Martin.  Martin was ranked just inside the Astros top 25 prospect list and entered the Pittsburgh Pirates organization around the same ranking.

At the time, Martin was considered a throw-in prospect who had a ceiling of a fourth outfielder.  Martin started the season at Double-A Altoona where he turned a lot of heads.  The throw in prospect went from being considered a fourth outfield type to leading the Eastern League in hitting for most of his time spent there.

The left hitting outfielder spent 68 games with the Altoona Curve where he put together 255 at-bats.  He would have had more, but he started the season on the shelf and missed the first week or so of the season. Still, in his 68 games, he posted an overly impressive slash line of .325/.392/.522 with 27 extra base hits, including 13 doubles, nine home runs, and five triples.  He also cut his strikeout percentage down while raising his walk rate from the previous year at Double-A.  In 2017, Martin struck out 25 percent of the time while walking only 5 percent. This season at Double-A, he struck out 21 percent of the time and walked at nearly 10 percent of the time.

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With so much success at Double-A, many started to believe that the Pittsburgh Pirates got a steal in acquiring Martin.  However, once he was moved to Triple-A he regressed big time. He played his final 59 games of the 2018 season with the Indianapolis Indians. He saw his slash line plummet to .211/.270/.319.  His strikeout rate went up to 22 percent and his walk rate went down to 7 percent.

The biggest difference, however, came in his power.  Martin only hit for 12 extra base hits, which was 20 percent less than the rate he was hitting at Double-A.  His wRC+ went from 152 to 65 and his ISO went from .196 to .108.  What all that suggests is that he was making weaker contact at Triple-A, which often leads to fewer hits.

The point of the matter is that Martin seemed very off balance at the Triple-A level.  He was not squaring up balls the way he was at Altoona early in the year.  Due to this, he was making more weak contact which leads to more outs.  While his strikeout rate moved up a tick, it was still lower than his career norm.  With that being said, it is evidence that maybe he is not going to be the outfield prospect many thought earlier this season.

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He started off the year great and looked like he could be a long-term solution as a closer to MLB ready outfield prospect.  However, if he is having trouble with pitchers keeping him off balance at Triple-A, then he definitely will have this issue at the big league level.  On the flip side, Martin only played in 59 games at Triple-A and he very well could adjust and bounce back next year.