Beloit Snappers' outfielder Mike Martin is his own toughest critic and that’s served him well as he fights through his first full professional season in the Oakland A’s minor league ranks.
The organization’s 33rd-round pick in the 2015 draft is a former standout at Harvard, so it makes sense that he knows what’s going on with his game. He had an honest response for why he didn’t break camp with a full-season squad when spring training wrapped up in early April.
"I didn't hit well enough to,” said Martin. “I'm 23 years old and one of the oldest guys, so it was frustrating to get left at extended. But at the same time, I don't think I deserved it because I wasn't playing well enough. I knew I had it in me, but at that time I wasn't hitting well enough."
So Martin got back to work in Arizona and waited for a break to come his way, which was in the form of an injury to Snappers’ starting center fielder Skye Bolt in early June.
"We have a couple good hitting coaches in the AZL and they worked with me every day,” Martin said. “It's more just being ready and being ready to swing. I was being a little bit too selective. I have a quick swing that doesn't hit for the most power, but if I put the bat on the ball good things will happen."
Upon his promotion to Low-A, the slender 6-foot-0 outfielder seized the moment and made a quick impression on his teammates and coaches, recording 10 hits in his first 17 at-bats, including a 5-for-5 performance in just his third game as a professional.
"I flew from Arizona up here, had a day off the first day I got here because of the travel, but then it was just like anything else,” Martin said. “I've been playing this game for as long as I can remember. The only thing different is in pro ball you're getting paid.
"It's still the same game. The bases are 90 feet away and the pitchers are 60 feet away. Obviously, getting a hot start helps you fit in with the team and gets you an every day spot to get ABs with. That's the biggest thing about these levels is getting consistent reps."
Baseball is a game of adjustments and Martin was soon faced with his first obstacle as a Snapper, which was adapting to what pitchers starting throwing his way.
After recording a slash line of .338/.411/.400 in 22 games during the month of June, Martin has cooled off considerably since the calendar moved to July. He’s managed just six hits in 31 at-bats this month, although he has walked five times this month. The recent slump has dropped his season slash line to .297/.378/.351.
Beloit manager Fran Riordan likes what he’s seen from the 2015 late-round pick, but acknowledges that it’s Martin’s turn to adapt to the Midwest League.
"Mike's provided a big spark for us at the top of the order,” Riordan said. “He's a very good runner and has played a very good center field when he's been out there. He started off as hot as a firecracker. He's cooled off a little bit lately, but is still providing that speed and defense.
“As pitchers are starting to adjust to him, he's got to make those adjustments as well coming from Arizona. He's got a lot of intelligence."
Martin sounds like he’s already got an idea of what he needs to do, and is just trying to execute it during games.
"The biggest thing as far as a hitter is concerned, with all of the pitchers being pretty similar, is you've got to swing the bat a little more,” he said. “Guys are a little bit more polished and throwing more strikes.
“In the AZL you still have guys throwing in the upper 90s, but they haven't developed their off-speed yet so you can hone in on that fastball. You know they're going to give you a pitch to hit. Out here they can throw curveballs for strikes on first pitches, so you've got to be ready to swing and hit."
It’s been a rollercoaster season for Martin, who has racked up hits in bunches when things are going well but has scuffled when things haven’t clicked in the batters box. Martin hopes to put things back together and carve out more consistent playing time in an outfield that includes Bolt, Justin Higley and Brett Siddall.