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2017 IBI Preview Capsule: Josh Martin

Josh Martin had a rollercoaster ride in 2016 starting the year with the Padres after being taken in the Rule 5 Draft and was later returned to the Indians. Now he'll be joining them in major league camp this spring. The IBI's Jake Dungan looks at whether he can have an impact on the big league bullpen.

The IBI Preview Capsules are back for 2017 as Jake Dungan takes an in-depth look at all the players who could impact the Tribe in the upcoming season from the established stars to the prospects on the verge of being called up to the majors to the non-roster invites to spring training.

Josh Martin, RHP

Throws: Right -- Bats: Right -- Entering his age-27 season -- Contract: Sixth minor league season

2016 In Review: After a breakout season in 2015 where he went 8-1 with a 2.27 ERA in 44 appearances for the RubberDucks, it looked like Josh Martin's time with the Indians may end prematurely as San Diego selected him in the Rule 5 Draft during that offseason. However, due to the stipulations of the draft process, Martin was later returned to the Tribe after the Padres elected to not keep him on their big league roster. As for his subsequent campaign last year with Triple-A Columbus, the right-hander was not as dominant as he had been the previous season, but was still solid working out of the Clippers bullpen finishing with a 2-5 mark and a 3.41 ERA in 47 appearances. As a converted starter, Martin offers the ability to pitch multiple innings as a reliever and, at least after 2015, looked as if he had late-inning potential. Now he's been summoned among the non-roster invitees to major league camp this spring as he figures to work his way up the bullpen depth chart.

Versus Right-handers: Martin saw a reversal of trends in his platoon splits last season that he hasn't had since his debut season with the Tribe back in 2012. For most of his professional career, he has been more effective against left-handed hitters, although the contrast has never been very drastic. In 2016, right-handed hitters had more trouble against the Alabama native batting just .219 with a .585 OPS. Truth be told, there's not much variance in those splits from last year and 2015, or even 2014 for that matter. It's just that his numbers against left-handers have seen a spike.

Versus Left-handers: For the first time in three years, left-handed hitters have batted above the Mendoza Line against Martin posting a .243 average and .642 OPS against him last season. Still solid, but also a far cry from his splits from the previous couple seasons where he had opposing marks in those categories as low as .157 and .400, respectively. Oddly enough, despite the elevated split, the 27-year-old's strikeout-to-walk ratio was higher against southpaws in 2016 at 3.6, also bucking trends from prior seasons. His strikeout rate was down overall from 2015, however, from 10.7 to 8.2 per nine innings and many of those previously came against right-handed hitters.

Pitch Mix: A big reason why Martin became as effective as he did prior to last season was his elevated strikeout rate, which jumped from 8.7 per nine innings in 2013 to 9.3 in 2014 and then all the way up to 10.7 in 2015. The right-hander had attributed this to the development of his cutter, which helped set up his go-to pitch, his curveball, for two-strike situations. Martin also uses a fastball that can touch the mid 90s and a changeup that he has gradually begun to throw with more confidence. As previously mentioned, after all the progress he made between 2014 and 2015, however, his strikeout rate dropped back down to just 8.2 and his WHIP spiked to a career high 1.212. Now perhaps it's just part of an adjustment process at the Triple-A level along with potentially the back-and-forth process of the Rule 5 Draft, but this upcoming season should be telling as far as whether he can get back to that dominant streak he had been building up.

Fantasy Impact: Right now, Martin's standing on the big league radar is likely to be determined in large part by how he performs in spring training against big league competition. Barring catastrophic injuries in the Tribe bullpen during camp, the chances of the 27-year-old making the opening day roster are highly unlikely, but his stock can certainly rise with an impressive showing in Goodyear. It also depends on which pitcher shows up in Columbus this season. If it's the guy we saw last year, he can still be a pretty good long-relief option or even a decent middle arm. But if he turns back into the Josh Martin of 2015, we could be talking about another late-inning candidate of the future.

Summary: Probably the best part about spring training for Martin this year, other than being invited to major league camp, is that he's back in a familiar setting and has a better sense of security about where he'll be pitching during the upcoming campaign. After the whirlwind of changes and roster moves he had to deal with at this time last year, now all he has to worry about is continuing his development and working with coaches and staff he knows and who know him rather than trying to impress new bosses. With that in mind along with a season already under his belt in Triple-A, Martin could be poised to show what exactly he brings to the table for the Indians and whether he could, in fact, be a key member of their future bullpen.

Check out our other 2017 Preview Capsules here:

Jake Dungan is the Managing Editor for IBI and a podcast host on the Smoke Signals Network. Email him at jdungan@indiansbaseballinsider.com or follow him on Twitter @JakeDBaseball.


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