Pittsburgh Pirates first base prospect Mason Martin headed into a big make-or-break season, but posted impoverish numbers at Triple-A.
2022 was going to be a big deciding year for Pittsburgh Pirates first base prospect Mason Martin. Martin was coming off a season where he had a .805 OPS, .344 wOBA, and 114 wRC+. Those are pretty decent numbers, but Martin struck out at a career-high 34.3% rate while walking at a career-low 7.8% rate. With Martin heading into his first extended look at Triple-A pitching in ‘22, it was a make-or-break year for the slugger.
But Martin came up well short of any expectations entering the year. Through 541 plate appearances, Martin batted a meager .210/.287/.410 with a .303 wOBA and 79 wRC+. Martin struck out even more often, going down on strike three in 36% of his plate appearances. His walk rate rebounded to 9.6%, but his walk-to-strikeout ratio rose from just .23 in ‘21 to ‘27 in ‘23.
Of the few positives, Martin still hit for good power. He hit 19 home runs while posting an isolated slugging percentage of .200 on the dot. The first baseman continued to show he has some of the best power potential in the Pirates’ system, hitting some of the longest home runs in the minor leagues. He has 70-grade raw power, but his power potential is severely hindered at the rate he strikes out.
Martin was absolutely anemic with the bat from June through the end of the year. His last 347 plate appearances of the season saw him slash.194/.271/.329 with a .267 wOBA and 56 wRC+. He walked 9.8% of the time, but his strikeout rate had risen even further to 37.2%. Even the power had evaporated as he hit just eight home runs with a .135 ISO. For reference, everyone’s favorite utility man Josh VanMeter batted .187/.266/.292 with a .251 wOBA and 59 wRC+.
Now with Malcom Nuñez in the organization, Martin doesn’t have a direct path to playing time at first base in the major leagues. While first base depth is thin, the Pirates are probably better off filling that spot Martin could fill with a veteran free agent rebound candidate, especially considering how poorly Martin performed.