Pittsburgh Pirates first base prospect Mason Martin has made some significant changes in his stance and swing which has led to his most productive season since 2019
Pittsburgh Pirates minor league first baseman Mason Martin had to make a change after his abysmal 2022 season. Martin turned in a .210/.287/.410 line with a .303 wOBA, and 79 wRC+. Martin had a respectable .200 isolated slugging percentage and 9.6% walk rate, but struck out well over a third of the time (35.9%).
There were pretty much no expectations for Martin to rebound with very clear issues in his game, but Martin has made some changes, particularly to his swing, that have led to an outstanding start to the 2023 season.
Martin is batting .208/.406/.509 through his first 143 plate appearances of the season at Altoona. He has a robust 23.8% walk rate, and if he were to keep up a 28% strikeout rate, it would be the first time in his career he posted a sub-30% strikeout across a full season. Martin, known for his raw power, has slugged nine home runs already, putting him on pace for nearly 40 across 600 plate appearances, and has a .300 isolated slugging percentage.
Martin owns a .414 wOBA, and 149 wRC+. The last time Martin produced anything like this was in 2019, when he batted .254/.351/.558 with a .406 wOBA, and 161 wRC+ between Greensboro and Bradenton. Even then, Martin’s walk rate was only 12.2% with a 30.2% strikeout rate. So what has Martin done to rebound in 2023?
It’s very clear Martin has had a major change in his swing. Here are two home runs he hit in 2022:
Now compare that to a home run he hit in 2023:
The first thing to note is that he is holding the bat closer to himself in his stance, as well as a different angle. However, the big thing he’s changed is his leg kick. Martin’s leading leg is nearly at a complete 90-degree angle when the pitcher brings the ball back in his wind-up. This year, however, he’s opted for more of a toe-tap.
Martin’s more compact stance and shortened up leg is definitely a reason for his improved strikeout rate, able to get through the zone faster with less moving parts. But the change in the angle at which he holds the bat could be the reason why he’s lifting the ball as often as he has. Martin has completely sold out for the flyball, owing a 60.6% fly ball rate. That is the highest fly ball rate among all qualified minor league batters by 2.1%.
We’ll see if Martin can come close to sustaining this kind of production. Fans still have the right to be skeptical given he is still striking out over a quarter of the time. However, Martin is having what is arguably the best season of his minor league career so far at the most competitive level of the minor leagues.