Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Potential Rule 5 Draft Casualities

Mandatory Credit: MLB Photos via USA Today Sports
Mandatory Credit: MLB Photos via USA Today Sports /
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Pittsburgh Pirates
Mar 1, 2021; Sarasota, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates Mason Martin (80) poses during media day at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: MLB Photos via USA Today Sports /

First Baseman Mason Martin

Mason Martin not being added to the 40-man roster was both a surprise and not a surprise. The slugger is nearly MLB ready and is one of the top 10 first-base prospects in baseball. However, his kind of skill set isn’t all that rare in the sport nowadays and faced many challenges in 2021.

Last season Martin played most of the 2021 season with the Double-A Altoona Curve. He posted a solid .242/.318/.481 line, .342 wOBA, and 113 wRC+. Martin is known for his big power output and blasted off 22 times in 471 plate appearances. All told, he had a .239 isolated slugging percentage. Eventually, he got promoted to Triple-A at the tail end of the season. He only got 27 plate appearances and struck out 10 times, but also hit 3 home runs.

Martin’s biggest struggle comes with strikeouts. He went down on strike three 34.3% of the time in 2021. It’s not the first time he has put up a strikeout rate of 30%+. In 2019, he struck out 30.2% of the time, and in 2018, he went down on strikeouts at a 33.7% rate. The thing is, he’s always been able to offset this with a strong walk rate. He drew ball four 12.2% of the time in 2019 and 13.6% of his plate appearances ended with a walk in 2018. But this past season? He only walked at a 7.8% clip.

Martin’s raw power potential is immense. He has a 70-raw power grade, as well as a 60-projected game power grade. Plus he isn’t an awful fielder at first base either. He projects as a 45-grade fielder, which is considered below average, but 50 is average so not terribly bad. Both FanGraphs and MLB Pipeline rank him as a top 10 first base prospect in the sport.

While Martin isn’t a bad prospect, his toolset isn’t rare. An all-or-nothing kind of hitter in today’s game isn’t a rare commodity. While a .241/.317/.487 line and 25 home runs are solid, it’s not outstanding, especially when you consider his strikeouts.

Martin’s strikeouts and lack of walks last season are two big red flags, things that will turn off teams. Plus he’s only limited to first base and designated hitter. He played some corner outfield early in his career, but he’s not nearly fast enough to handle the grass outside of emergency duties.

Plus, it’s not like a team couldn’t find a player with less variability than Mason Martin. But the fact he has lighttower power makes the chances of him being picked non-zero. He might be an all-or-nothing, one-dimensional slugger right now, but all it takes is for one team to think they can improve his hit tool, or get his walk rates back up.