When Leonys Martin joined the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders on May 12, it would have been reasonable to expect an adjustment period. Aside from two weeks of game action at extended spring training, Martin hadn't really faced live pitching since playing for his native Cuba at the FISU World University Championships last summer.
In Martin's debut game with the ‘Riders, he went 3-for-5 with two doubles and a steal. Two games later, he was 2-for-5 with a homer and four RBI. Martin appeared plenty ready to compete at the minor leagues' upper levels.
The 23-year-old recently finished off an impressive May, going 24-for-68 (.353) with six doubles, two triples, and two homers in 17 contests. He worked 10 walks and struck out just three times. By the end of the month, Martin had already tied for the team lead with eight stolen bases.
Martin, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound center field prospect, has certainly met––if not exceeded––all expectations thus far after signing a reported five-year, $15.5 million major league contract with the Rangers.
Martin's glove, arm strength, and speed all rate as above-average tools. He has an average hit tool to go with average power, but the prospect is a mature hitter and has clearly played baseball at a high level in the past. He displays excellent plate discipline. While he can punch the ball with some authority, Martin also shows the ability to shorten his stroke and use all fields when necessary.
The left-handed hitter, righty thrower may not play a big role for the Rangers this season, but he figures to at least compete for a big league roster spot in spring training next year. Through his first 19 games, Martin has a 12.1 percent walk rate while fanning in just 6.6 percent of his plate appearances.
Martin may not profile as a superstar, but he could ultimately be the top-of-the-order hitter and centerfielder the Rangers have been looking for due to his 60-grade (plus) speed, on-base skills, and solid glove.
And if the Cuba native continues to be such a consistent producer in Frisco, he could find himself with Triple-A Round Rock before long.
Honorable Mention: Taylor Teagarden (Round Rock), Zach Zaneski (Myrtle Beach), Jurickson Profar (Hickory)
April: Ryan Strausborger, OF, Myrtle Beach
Pitcher of the Month: Joe Wieland, RHP, Myrtle Beach
Joe Wieland's May numbers spoke for themselves––34 innings, 22 hits, three earned runs, zero walks, and 42 strikeouts.
Overall, Wieland projects as a starter with solid-average stuff to go along with plus command and control. He's a good athlete who repeats his delivery well.
Wieland's projection has remained the same since the Rangers selected him with their fourth round pick in the 2008 MLB Draft––a solid, durable number three or four starting pitcher.
The 21-year-old attacks hitters with a four-pitch mix that includes an upper-80s, low-90s fastball, a 73-79 mph curveball, an 80-83 mph slider, and a changeup. His curveball is an above-average offering, and his newly added slider also shows promise.
Although Wieland posted a 5.19 earned-run average in 11 appearances with High-A Bakersfield last season, he showed signs of breaking out. As the righty began to throw his curveball more often with the Blaze, the pitch improved drastically. He also believes he learned a lesson in fastball command after getting hit around initially.
"That experience was huge," Wieland said of his time in Bakersfield. "That's when I learned to pitch. In Hickory, I felt like I knew something. I knew a little bit. But I was still learning quite a bit. And the second I got to Bakersfield, I was like, ‘Okay, there's a lot to learn.'
"That's when I started becoming an actual pitcher––not just a thrower. A lot of the guys in our system have said––(Rangers minor league pitching coordinator) Danny Clark said in spring training, ‘In Bakersfield, I felt like you learned how to pitch.' And I said, ‘That's exactly what I thought."
Wieland used his initial struggles in Bakersfield last season as a learning experience, and he is breaking out statistically this year. Through his first 65 innings, the prospect has walked three and struck out 76.
As it currently stands, Wieland hasn't issued a walk since an April 18 start against Winston-Salem––a streak that spans 202 batters faced.
When Wieland reaches Double-A––which should be in the near future––he'll certainly learn about moving hitters' feet in the box and throwing purposefully out of the zone. But for now, his ability to pound the strike zone at will with all four pitches is encouraging, to say the least. And it is certainly too much for High-A hitters to handle.
|May||Myrtle Beach (A+)||4-1||34.0||22||0||42||0.79|
Honorable Mention: Michael Kirkman (Round Rock), Martin Perez (Frisco), Robbie Erlin (Myrtle Beach/Frisco), Matt Thompson (Hickory)
April: Neil Ramirez, RHP, Myrtle Beach/Round Rock
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