CHARLESTON, W.VA. – Mason Martin burst onto the prospect scene last summer in the Gulf Coast League thanks in large part to his bat.
The 2017 17th round pick set a GCL Pirates record with 11 home runs to go with 22 runs batted in, had a .307 batting average with a .457 on-base percentage and a .630 slugging percentage while taking 32 walks and striking out 41 times in 127 at-bats over 39 games. That was good enough to earn him the league’s Most Valuable Player award.
For an encore this season in the South Atlantic League with the West Virginia Power, Martin wants to keep the momentum rolling on offense while honing his craft on defense at first base.
Like many young players that turn into very good players down the line, Martin grew up as a shortstop. Since then he has bounced around some, spending time at third base and in the outfield before a more recent move to first base. The results are sometimes mixed — a Tuesday error at first by Martin allowed an Augusta GreenJackets run to score in West Virginia’s 6-4 win, but the 18 year old from Kennewick, Wash. has shown an ability to put in the work off the field to get the desired results on the field in the past.
“It’s a big thing for me this year to get better on defense,” Martin said. “I started playing first base like two, three years ago. I was always kind of a corner guy at third base. I started at shortstop then I moved to the outfield, so I don’t have a ton of experience at first base but I think this full season is a good opportunity to get reps out there. That’s definitely one thing I’m trying to get better on — defense at first base.”
A big part of Martin’s offseason work involved the weight room — a comfortable place close to his heart. Martin’s father is a powerlifter and has provided pointers along the way for his professional athlete son.
“[My father] has been huge for me since I was young,” Martin said. “He got me in the weight room young and he’s been pushing me ever since. It’s good to have somebody with all of that information that you can go to and have train you. He does a great job, so every offseason we get together and lift. It’s a great resource to have that in your back pocket to have all of that information.”
Offense is still Martin’s calling card, and so far in 2018 he has done well. Entering play Tuesday, Martin was tied for the Power lead with four home runs while also being among the team leaders with 16 RBIs while batting .261. He has, however, struck out 30 times (tied for the team lead with Oneil Cruz) while walking a team-high 11 times. He has certainly shown flashes of the play that earned him the GCL MVP award last season, but there have been some bumps along the way.
Martin knows not everything will come as easy as his first summer of professional baseball appeared to.
“I think after I got drafted I was really motivated to go out there and prove myself and prove that I was worthy of being a professional baseball player,” Martin said. “I wanted to take that motivation into the offseason. I went into that offseason and just crushed it in the weight room and in the cages and got ready for spring training. Obviously I’m hoping to keep that momentum going, and honestly that attitude never changes for me. I’m always trying to prove myself — prove the doubters wrong and prove the believers right.”