MASON MARTIN, FIRST BASEMAN
|Born: June 2, 1999
Height: 6′ 0″
Drafted: 17th Round, 508th Overall, 2017
How Acquired: Draft
High School: Southridge HS (Wash)
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Baseball America had Martin 312th in its ranking of the top 500 draft prospects. BA had him listed as a first baseman, which is where he played in high school, but the Pirates announced him as a right fielder. He has played the outfield and third base, and also pitched, serving as his team’s closer in 2017. His best tool is power; he got plus-raw-power grades from some scouts after adding 10-15 pounds in his last year of high school. BA noted that his approach was geared more towards power than contact, but that he had a good feel for hitting and above-average bat speed. He had a commitment to Gonzaga, but the Pirates signed him a few days before the signing deadline for $225,000 above the slot amount.
As a pro, Martin’s approach has been to wait for a pitch he can try to hit out of the park. His approach is very pull-heavy, although it’s gotten a little less so over time. The result has been drastic swing-and-miss problems, as well as a lot of called strikes. The Pirates moved him to first fairly quickly and it looks like he’ll stay there.
Martin had a huge debut season. He led the GCL in OBP, HRs and slugging, the latter two by wide margins. He was the league’s MVP, set the GCL Pirates’ record for HRs, and posted the third-highest OPS ever in the league. The one concern has to be the strikeouts. Martin isn’t an impatient hitter, as the walk total shows. He does try to pull the ball most of the time, but plenty of players have made that approach work. Martin spent about two-thirds of his time at first, the rest in the outfield.
The Pirates sent Martin to West Virginia to play first at the beginning of the season. He started off well, batting 262/361/476 in April. After that, the pitchers evidently figured him out, and in May he hit just 106/222/128, with strikeouts in over half his at-bats. Things didn’t improve in June and the Pirates sent him to extended spring training a week into the month. Two weeks later he joined Bristol when its season started. He followed the same pattern there, hitting four home runs in his first five games, but tailing off gradually in July and posting just a .596 OPS in August, whiffing in exactly half his at-bats. Martin also had problems defensively, committing 15 errors in 95 games at first, although that’s not completely surprising given his lack of experience there.
Martin returned to low A, this time Greensboro, and had a huge season, including a July promotion to Bradenton. He totaled 35 HRs and 129 RBIs. These were easily the highest totals in the minors if you exclude AAA, where power stats exploded due to a livelier ball. Martin finished tied for first in the South Atlantic League in HRs and third in RBIs despite playing less than two-thirds of the season there. He appeared to be changing his approach by being (slightly) less pull-oriented and a little more aggressive early in the count, but these remain ongoing issues. His K rate dropped a little at Greensboro, but edged back up again at Bradenton. Although he didn’t hit quite as well at the latter stop, at least some of this is attributable to the tougher hitting environment in the Florida State League. His HR total at Greensboro wasn’t just the result of the HR-prone home park, as he hit 12 of his 23 on the road. On the season as a whole, Martin had a large platoon split, with a .955 OPS against RHPs and .720 against LHPs. His defense remains a work in progress; he had a high error total (14). He did show better speed on the bases than you might think, as his SB total at Greensboro shows.
Martin continued along the same lines at Altoona, hitting for power with a lot of swing-and-miss. He did see a decrease in his walk rate and an increase in his K rate. He also slumped in August and September after a big month in July. The ballpark at Altoona, which suppresses power, may have hurt him; he had a .707 OPS and eight home runs at home, .896 and 14 on the road. He did not have a platoon split. The Pirates moved Martin up to Indianapolis for eight late-season games and he hit three more homers. He’s continued improving defensively.
Martin had a tough season. He started off with an outstanding month of April, posting a 1.021 OPS. After that he struggled and, obviously, his K rate was off the charts. It’s a pattern he’s followed throughout his career; he gets off to a fast start at a new level, then the pitchers start to adjust. He hit a low point with a .323 OPS in June. In the second half Martin seemed to be trying to tone down his approach. His best month, apart from April, was August, when he put up an .827 OPS despite not going deep all month. In the season’s second half, Martin frequently served as DH rather than playing first, which probably reflected the Pirates looking for better options at the position.
Martin remains eligible for Rule 5, but it’s hard to see any likelihood of him getting selected. With the nearly unprecedented disaster Ben Cherington created at 1B in 2022, Martin let a good opportunity pass by. He’ll open 2023 at Altoona, so he’s not moving forward.
|2023: Minor league contract
|Signing Bonus: $350,000
MiLB Debut: 2017
MiLB FA Eligible: 2023
MLB FA Eligible:
Rule 5 Eligible: 2021
Added to 40-Man:
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.000
|June 14, 2017: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 17th round, 508th overall pick; signed on July 3.|