The Pittsburgh Pirates left first base prospect Mason Martin unprotected to the Rule 5 Draft, but the chances that another team picks him are slim-to-none.
One of the many surprising decisions for many the Pittsburgh Pirates made in regards to the Rule 5 Draft and the 40-man roster was leaving first base prospect Mason Martin unprotected. The slugger has top-of-the-line raw power and has displayed that throughout the minor leagues. However, is the Rule 5 draft really something fans need to worry about when talking about Martin?
Last season Martin spend most of his 2021 campaign at Altoona. He posted a solid .242/.318/.481 line with a .342 wOBA, and 113 wRC+. Martin slugged 22 home runs while having a healthy .239 isolated slugging percentage. He has a 60-projected game power grade, but a 70 current and future raw power grade. At the tail-end of 2021, he got a promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis where he slammed 3 more home runs in just 27 trips to the plate. But
Martin is a power machine, but that power also comes with drawbacks. He’s also a strikeout machine. He went down on strike three at a 34.3% rate. This isn’t the first time he has had a 30%+ strikeout rate, but it’s his highest single-season mark. Even more worryingly was his 7.8% walk rate. Martin consistently walked 12%+ of the time in years prior, but he failed to draw a walk often in 2021.
Now, sure, Martin is considered a top 10 first base prospect by both FanGraphs and MLB Pipeline. He has a ton of raw power and has the potential to be a 30+ home run bat in the majors. But the Rule 5 draft shouldn’t be a major concern surrounding Mason Martin. The major reason is that he’s a first base-only prospect. Martin played a few games in the outfield back when the Bucs drafted him, but he’s too slow to adequately play the grass outside of emergency duties. He’s pretty much limited to first base and designated hitter.
First basemen aren’t often targets of the Rule 5 Draft. Since 2010, only four first basemen have been drafted in the major league phase. Two of them have been returned. Among those 4 that have been selected, only one has ended up putting together a decent career for themselves, that being Ji-Man Choi (originally selected by the LA Angels from the Seattle Mariners in 2016).
Martin’s raw power makes his chances non-zero. Most teams will focus on prospects with an elite tool and hope to develop the rest in the Rule 5 Draft. But Martin is pretty much a one-dimensional player in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system. He’s an all-or-nothing slugger who saw his walk rates and strikeout rates move in the wrong direction last season. Not a very promising sign already, and teams are going to rather focus on players on an upward trend.
Plus, most teams probably already have a Martin-like player in the system. Power is very common anymore. Many teams will probably want to use their pick on something greater than an all-or-nothing slugger, or at least use their pick on one that is trending in the right direction.
In the end, based on the fact that very rarely do first basemen get picked in the Rule 5 Draft, as well as the fact that Martin’s swing-and-miss is a massive concern, I don’t see a team picking him. Sure, the fact he has light-tower-power and the only risk of picking him is leaving him on the 26-man roster for an entire season makes the chances of him being picked non-zero, but it’s as close to non-zero as you can possibly get.