ALTOONA, Pa. – The Pirates promoted outfielder Jason Martin to Triple-A Indianapolis last week after he hit .325 with a .913 OPS for the Altoona Curve to start his 2018 campaign. The promotion did not come as a surprise to those who follow the team, as Martin had 300 Double-A at-bats, as well as time in the Arizona Fall League, already under his belt while playing in the Houston Astros organization.
What may have come as a surprise was how good Martin would be for the Curve. On a roster loaded with highly touted prospects, he was easily the team’s best position player for the first half of the season.
“The stuff that we’ve heard coming into the season, he was better than advertised,” Curve manager Michael Ryan said. “Just the mindset, what he brought to the table, and the power that he displayed for his size. Good for him, it’s so well deserved for him.”
That power is result of a philosophical change that Martin brought from the Astros. Hitting only nine home runs in 920 at-bats through his first three seasons of professional baseball, the 5’10” center fielder has hit 50 homers in the last three seasons. Martin adjusted his bat path to try to elevate the ball more, an approach on elevated launch angle that the Astros employed before the 2016 season. (Read all about the changes Martin made and brought with his from the Astros in this article from late April.)
Once a glorified singles hitter as a younger player, Martin has turned into a legitimate prospect. Within the Pirates’ organization, he leads all full-season players with a .320 batting average. He was ranked fifth in the Eastern League with a .325 average when he was promoted to Indianapolis. His nine homers are fifth-most in the organization.
“I had pretty high expectations,” Martin said after Michael Ryan informed him of his promotion. “Just for me to be able to go out and play like that is a blessing. My swing is coming around more as I mature and get more at-bats. I just need to carry those things to the next level.”
On top of his swing, Ryan was impressed with Martin’s defense in center field, specifically how his jumps off of the bat have improved as the season has progressed.
“The way he improved defensively was unbelievable,” Ryan said.
Being a part of the return in such a controversial trade could be unsettling for 22-year-old; however, Martin has taken it all in stride. He simply wanted to show his new fans, teammates, and organization the type of player he was. I believe his first impression did the trick.
“I wouldn’t say I put pressure on myself,” Martin said. “It was more just sticking to my game. I know what kind of player I am, and it was just a matter of putting it on the field in a new organization. Just to be able to get the trust from the Pirates and the whole organization is great, and I love it.”
Now, Martin will continue his 2018 campaign with the Indians. Through his first six games in Triple-A, he is 8-for-24 with two extra-base hits.