Few people knew much about Martin when the Pirates gave him $350,000 to sign in the 17th round of the 2017 Draft. The Washington state high schooler gave an early return on the investment and put his name on the prospect map when he hit 11 homers in his 39-game Gulf Coast League debut that summer. A move to the full-season South Atlantic League in 2018 did not go well, but he turned things around in 2019, smashing 35 homers between two levels of A ball, power that continued to show up during his time at the club’s alternate training site in Altoona, Pa., in 2020.
There’s no question about Martin’s raw power and whether it will play in any park he’s in. His average exit velocity during his breakout 2019 season was 91.5 mph, among the top averages in the game. There is considerable swing and miss to his game, with a strikeout rate of over 30 percent in his career, something he worked on addressing during his time at the alternate camp last summer. He also worked to put the ball in the air more consistently and cut down on his ground ball rate, and he exhibited the ability to damage any pitch, having added more man strength as he’s matured.
Martin has also improved his overall conditioning while working very hard on his defense. He’s committed to not being a one-dimensional player and the Pirates feel he’ll be at least an average defender at first base, with the kind of left-handed swing that could deliver a lot of home runs at PNC Park.
Scouting grades: Hit: 40 | Power: 60 | Run: 30 | Arm: 45 | Field: 45 | Overall: 45
The Pirates took an over-slot flier on Martin in the 17th round of the 2017 Draft, giving him $350,000 to keep him from heading to Gonzaga and hoping his raw power would play at the pro level. The early returns were good as he slugged .630 in his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League, but he struggled with an aggressive push to full-season ball in 2018. To his credit, he righted the ship and crushed 35 homers across two levels of A ball in 2019, tying for the South Atlantic League lead in homers with 23 even though he got promoted after just 82 games.
Martin easily has the best power in the organization and is becoming one of the best power hitters in all of the Minors. He can crush the ball out to all fields and out of any ballpark, including in what’s usually a very pitching-friendly Florida State League, and there might be more to come given that he finished with more than 30 doubles in 2019 as well. The strikeouts are an issue, he whiffed in more than 30 percent of his plate appearances last year, but some of that came because he was so intent on working counts. A focus on figuring out how to do more damage early in the count so he doesn’t get to two strikes as much without sacrificing his on-base skills will be a key area of his offensive development.
While Martin is never going to wow anyone with his glove, he has improved at first base and he works hard to become capable there. He’ll keep getting some work in the outfield, maybe even some in-game reps, to help with his athleticism, but it’s that power bat that’s going to push him up the ladder.
Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 50 | Run: 30 | Arm: 45 | Field: 40 | Overall: 45
As teams get to the later rounds of the Draft, they rely heavily on the area scouts, who put in the work to really know players and finding value. The Pirates leaned on Pacific Northwest scout Max Kwan, who was on Martin's offensive upside from the get-go and knew what it would take to sign him. The Pirates gave Martin well above the $100,000 threshold in the 17th round to sign him away from his Gonzaga commitment and he promptly went out and led the Gulf Coast League in home runs, on-base percentage and slugging.
Martin impressed immediately, and throughout his pro debut, with his professional at-bats. He has an advanced approach from the left side of the plate, particularly for a high schooler, drawing walks and not even giving in to left-handers on the mound. He has the chance to be at least an average hitter with above-average power if this continues, and was hitting balls over the center field wall in Pirate City during instructs. The son of a body builder, Martin is no stranger to the weight room and could approach plus power eventually.
A well below-average runner, Martin played some outfield during his pro debut, but he is now a first baseman only with work to do to be adequate defensively. It will be his bat that carries him, however, and after struggling with an assignment in full-season ball, he righted the ship when he was sent down to the Appalachian League in 2018.