Prospect #20 - RHP Ethan Martin

Many websites will rank Martin among the Dodgers top 10 prospects, some as high as #1. While we won't quibble with the choice, for the most part we do not rate a player before he has completed his first professional season.

In this case, however, we accept Logan White's judgement in taking him in the first round and put him arbitrarily in #20, knowing full well that if he performs during the 2009 season is as expected, he could move into the top 10 by this time next year -- perhaps as #1.

RHP Ethan Martin
6-3 200 BR TR
Born- June 6, 1989
Obtained- Dodgers first selection in 2009 draft

Martin was high on every scout's list during his final high school season at Stephens County High in Toccoa Georgia. They only disagreed on one point; would he pitch or play third base.

One scout noted: "Martin epitomizes the power/power package that scouts look for from a prototypical third baseman. His arm strength is among the best in the nation, as he has thrown 95 from the mound, which also gives him value as a pitcher. His power at the plate is what sets him apart, as he hits tape measure shots with a pull swing tailor-made for crushing fastballs over the left-field fence. While his big swing is going to leave him susceptible to some lofty strikeout totals, his power comes very easily from a balanced swing and open-legged stance. His power and athleticism makes him similar to former slugging and Gold Glove third baseman Matt  Williams."

Lofty comments about the 18-year-old.

Then one night in March, Martin started against American Heritage High of Plantation, Florida, the No. 3 team in the country at the time and the eventual national champions.

At the time most evaluators saw him as a third baseman with superior bat speed and great power potential, but some liked him more as a pitcher.

In the first inning, Martin faced Eric Hosmer, the top power hitter in the high school ranks. Martin fired two quick strikes that hit 94 and 96 on the speed gun. Then Hosmer battled and fouled off a couple pitches. With a 2-2 count, Martin delivered a backdoor slurve and froze Hosmer for strike three.

The stands were suddenly full of scouts scratching out the third base part and underlining the pitching potential.

"That was probably the biggest game," Martin said. "At that point I wasn't a pitcher, really. If I did well it was great. If I didn't, it wasn't going to affect me because I was a position player."

Martin followed the strikeout of Hosmer by fanning Adrian Nieto, another top prospect, for the third out. That pretty well iced the cake.

Stephens County handed American Heritage their second, and final, of the season thanks to Martin's dazzling performance. He pitched the complete game, striking out 11 batters, and his 130th pitch hit 93 on the gun. The the win, and the final score (6-4) were overlooked in how Martin's future had just changed.

He went from an interesting two-way player to an upper-echelon pitching prospect in one start. Showing three above-average pitches he can throw for strikes as well as the ability to maintain mid-90s velocity deep into a game, Martin was sure to be one of the most closely watched prep pitchers in the draft class.

Martin sailed through the season, dominating the competition on both sides of the ball and helping his team make it to the Georgia 3-A state finals. In 15 appearances, Martin went 10-2, 1.50 with two saves and 162 strikeouts in 89 innings. At the plate he hit .509 with 18 home runs and 39 RBIs. He had 55 hits, 16 of which were doubles, giving him 34 extra-base hits, a staggering 62 percent of his total hits.

Martin would be named the 2008 Gatorade Georgia State High School Player of the Year after entering the season as a Baseball America Second-Team Pre-Season High School All-American.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder had been named a 2007 AFLAC All-American after his junior season, during which he went 6-1 with 81 strikeouts and a 1.41 ERA. He was rated by Baseball America as having the second-best fastball among draft-eligible high school pitchers. He was also rated by the publication as having the third-best secondary pitch amongst the same group.

The final piece to Martin's spectacular season came on June 5, with the 15th overall pick of the draft, the Dodgers gave Martin the opportunity to become a professional baseball player.

Martin was also the quarterback for the Stephens County football team and appeared to be on his way to Clemson via a scholarship until the Dodgers drafted him.

"I had some friends and family over and we were all sitting around," Martin said of the draft day anticipation. "I didn't know where I was going, but the Dodgers called about a minute before their pick. They called my name and everybody went crazy. I heard it but didn't see it. I was kind of in shock. Once everybody sat down and I saw my picture on TV it kind of hit me."

The announcement of Martin's name may have been misleading however. Martin was announced as a third baseman, but the Dodgers and he confirm that his future is on the mound. "I'm really excited to do it," Martin said. "I was overwhelmed."

Assistant General Manager, Scouting Logan White said is he aware that not everyone shares his opinion that Martin is better as a pitcher than as a third baseman. White was questioned similarly when he selected James Loney as a pitcher rather than as a first baseman in 2002.

"We're doing the Loney in reverse," said White. "I think the thing with Loney was that I was so convinced that he was so much better of a hitter than he was as a pitcher.  He was good as a pitcher, but I just felt that he had a chance to have a special glove and a special bat.   
br> "Ethan's bat is quality, but he's so good on the mound.  He's ahead of where James was on the mound at the same age. He throws harder, better curveball, and things like that.  And I think James was ahead of him as a hitter at the same age.  That's what goes into it, but it wasn't just me. It's Gib Bodet, Tim Hallgren, Paul Fryer, all our scouts.  We had so many people see him, and we're all on the same page about him being a pitcher over a hitter.

"Ethan is a fantastic young athlete who excels on the mound with an exploding fastball and a sharp-biting curve," said White. "He is a terrific competitor with first-class makeup."

"Ethan has a good angle on his fastball with late sinking action anywhere from 90-96 miles per hour," said Scouting Director Tim Hallgren. "He also has a plus-curveball that has late three-quarter downward action at the plate." Martin entered the draft as the eighth-best pitcher – and the 16th-best overall prospect – among draft-eligible players according to Baseball America.

But then, the crown jewel for a first year player, an outstanding rookie season, eluded him. During fielding drills he damaged a knee so badly he was sideline for the entire 2008 season.

He could have returned to action late in the year but the Dodgers, recognizing his age, decided to just shut him down for the rest of the season so he would be ready for 2009.

He will probably start out in the Arizona Rookie League in 2009 and will be closely monitored.  

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