Much of the hot press on Mason Martin has been about his ability to hit the ball a long way.
However, Martin has another strength he’s been working on between the lines — his glove work.
“I pride myself, not just on being a really good defender, but also getting better everyday and trying to make progress every single season,” Martin said. “I’m really excited where my glove is at and keep trying to find ways to grow and get better. A lot of that comes with experience in games and just playing.”
Martin has combined the experience and hard work to reach the next level at first base. He has surpassed the level of just avoiding a liability, to good, to now standing out with his defensive work this season in Indianapolis. It truly has been a season-over-season progression for Martin.
“[Defense] is one of the things that has come a long way since I have been drafted,” Martin said. “I got drafted as an outfielder and got switched to first base after just a couple weeks of being in the GCL Rookie League. It’s been a long time coming over at first, but as you look back over each season, each year has gotten better.”
Martin said that he grew up playing shortstop before he grew to 225 pounds. He played there until his freshman year of high school. From then, he moved all over. He played third as a sophomore and first as a junior. His final high school season, he played the outfield. He said that all of that experience, and learning each position was a benefit in preparation for each play, knowing what is happening at each spot.
“First base is the right spot for me,” Martin said. “That’s where I feel the most comfortable. I’ve got the big glove on and I can just be myself over there.”
This comfort allows Martin to save his teammates errors. In fact, that is how he views the purpose of a first baseman. Martin sees the most value in saving errors and picking up teammates.
“[I want to be] able to instill some form of confidence in your infielders, if they have to make a tough play and a really snap a throw, just in the direction of first base,” Martin said. “Oneil [Cruz] out at shortstop, I’ve seen him dive and backhand balls in the six hole all of the time because he has such long arms and legs. When he goes full extension, he can’t just get up and take his time. He has to just get up and rip it. I want everyone to feel confident that when they make a play like that, they trust that I’m going to catch it, or at least keep it in front of me.”
Along with picking balls out of the dirt, Martin rarely, if ever, allows a high throw by. With that in mind, he said that he can indeed still dunk a basketball. He was curious and recently found a court.
Additionally, he said the last time that he took a jump test, it was 61.5 centimeters, with translates to just over two feet. With his size, Martin said that people sleep on his hops, but he takes pride in corralling a high throw and trying to steal an out with the swipe tag.
With his catch radius improvements, Martin adds an extra tool to his belt. Along with his power, the tandem of skills get him just that much closer to getting to the big leagues and staying.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
Williams: The Youth Movement Arrives, But One Prospect’s Future With the Pirates is Unclear
Prospect Roundtable: Pirates Who Are Trending Up in the Rankings
Prospect Roundtable: Pirates Who Are Trending Down in the Rankings
Ji-hwan Bae Looks to Continue Second-Half Trend
Cody Bolton Is A Spin Rate Master
Mason Martin Focuses on His Defense at First Base
Travis MacGregor Adapts Well to Bullpen Role
Ryan has been following Indianapolis baseball for most of his life, and the Pirates since they became the affiliate in 2005. He began writing for Pirates Prospects in 2013, in a stint that ran through 2016 (with no service time manipulation played in). Ryan rejoined the team in 2022, covering Indianapolis once again. He has covered the Pirates in four different big league stadiums. Ryan was also fortunate enough to cover the 2015 Futures Game in Cincinnati.
He can dunk? but he’s white!
Just getting to play with Cruz everyday has allowed him to improve. His deficiencies would be rather clear the way Cruz has thrown the ball this year, and Martin has been up to the task.
Mason Martin has definitely been up to the challenge at 1B this year.
Oneil Cruz fielded .957 at SS at A+ in 2019, and .931 at Altoona in 2021 after a lot of time away from the sport. He can hit and he can play SS – at AAA or MLB. He should be in the majors, and he should take his quality defensive 1B with him.
Have we forgotten that our primary SS on the Pirates was fielding .900 (4 errors in 14 games) before being injured? Is there a better time?
BRING. HIM. UP…..
Once the Chang experiment runs its course I think we finally see him up. He pretty much is what he is at this point. What’s the harm in seeing if he can somewhat control the k’s while also hitting singers consistently.