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2017 IBI Top 75 Prospects: #45 Josh Martin

The 2017 countdown continues with a right-handed reliever who is on the cusp of a Major League opportunity - and almost got one last year as a Rule 5 pick with the Padres - and brings an interesting mix of size, stuff and ability to potentially be a mainstay in the Cleveland Indians bullpen for a long time...

45. Josh Martin – Right-handed Pitcher

Born: 12/30/1989 – Height: 6’5” – Weight: 230 – Bats: Right – Throws: Right

Facts & Info: Martin was selected by the Indians in the 10th round of the 2012 Draft out of Samford University (AL) and signed for $125,000. He was a re-draft as he was originally selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 25th round of the 2011 Draft. During his senior season of college he was named a Louisville Slugger third team all-American and named first team All-Southern Conference. His 12 wins his senior year tied for the NCAA lead and he is the all-time wins leader at Samford with 24 wins. Last season, he finished 4th among relievers in the International League in lowest batting average against (.230).

Stuff: Martin is an older prospect who has done what few pitching prospects do, which is show significant improvement to the quality of his stuff in his mid-20s. When he first came into the organization as a starting pitcher he had a solid average fastball that sat at 90-92 MPH and flashed 93 MPH, but through a lot of hard work with his strength and conditioning, some mechanical changes and a change in role to the bullpen, his fastball is now an above average offering that regularly sits at 92-94 MPH and flashes 95-96 MPH with good life to the bottom of the zone. His curveball has always been a good weapon for him because of the way he can spin it, but he’s really worked to add more power to it and make it a sharper offering with good side to side sweeping action and turned it into a good swing and miss offering in the process. It’s a well above average Major League offering and the best pitch in his arsenal. Perhaps the biggest separator for him came in the middle of the 2014 season when he added a cutter to his arsenal which gave him a pitch with some good, hard break to attack hitters in any count or situation. The cutter has helped his curveball in that he can now use the curveball more as a put away offering to get chase with two strikes and not have to mix it in earlier in the count as much to keep hitters off his fastball. He also has a changeup in his back pocket that was shelved in 2013 which he shows a feel for and occasionally mixes it in to give hitters a new look.

Delivery & Intangibles: What really stirs interest in Martin is his unique size with a lean, strong frame that provides the strength and durability needed to maintain his stamina and health but also the angle to really leverage the ball on hitters and create some good deception. He used to be more spread out in his delivery when he was in college, but made some changes to get him taller and more relaxed in his delivery which has helped him use his strong lower half better and be more consistent down slope. He has some athleticism to go along with that size which really helps him repeat his delivery well, keeps all of his long limbs in order and helps him do a good job at fielding his position. He throws a lot of strikes and just has an overall good feel for pitching with a fearless approach to throw any pitch at any time. He is a very confident pitcher who maintains good poise in the toughest situations. He’s very smart, works hard and is a high makeup guy.

Focus: Martin is pretty refined at this point and very close to his ceiling as a prospect, so there is little left for him to do at this point other than to get a Major League opportunity and let the feedback from his initial exposure show what adjustments he needs to make to stick in the big leagues. Most of what he needs to do at this point is about fine tuning everything to be a little better repeating his delivery, a little more consistent locating down in the zone and getting his curveball and cutter a little crisper. There are also some opportunities to do a better job with his pitch sequencing not just with how he mixes his pitches, but how he effectively uses all four quadrants of the zone to change eye levels and what the hitters are seeing. He had a good showing at the Triple-A level last year, though his walks were up (2.5 BB/9 to 3.1 BB/9) and strikeouts were down considerably from the previous year (10.7 K/9 to 8.2 K/9), so the Indians would like to see him get his walk and strikeout rates more in line with his 2015 numbers. 

Future: Martin is a rare case of a senior signing not in the top rounds who has turned himself into a legitimate prospect and is on the cusp of a Major League opportunity. A lot of that credit goes to his determination and his willingness to make the changes needed, which in turn have allowed him to make some massive strides with his body, delivery and stuff since coming on board with the Indians. All of those improvements took everything to another level and really solidified his standing as a good pen prospect, which was proven when the San Diego Padres snatched him from the Indians in the 2015 Rule 5 Draft. He was only with the Padres for a few months before being returned to the Indians at the end of spring training last season, but the entire experience was confirmation of how far he has come as a prospect and how he is valued in the industry. He’s really taken to the pen well and shown a ton of durability and arguably been the top performing reliever in the system over the last three years. That remarkable consistency and great showing at every level of the minors has him on the doorstep of the Major Leagues and some think he could be another Zach McAllister-type in the making with the upside for more. He’s not on the 40-man roster but he’s the top non-rostered candidate at the moment which puts him in the driver’s seat to get an opportunity this year if things align well for him. He should open the season with a return to Triple-A Columbus and continue to get primary relief opportunities in many different situations and roles to prepare him for that first big league call which could come this season.

Ranking History: NR (2016 - Rule 5), #58 (2015), #90 (2014), #96 (2013)

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