Name: Dustin Martin
DOB: April 4, 1984
After hitting .389 with six home runs and slugging .572 in his senior year of college, Martin broke out in a big way in his professional debut in 2006 by hitting a team-high .315 and leading the Brookyln Cyclones in doubles (15), triples (7), stolen bases (7), and RBI (35).
"I think I did as well as I could have done," Martin said of his professional debut with the Brooklyn Cyclones in 2006. "They had confidence in me the whole year and kept me around the three or four hole all year. I played well, put up some good average numbers, and some good power numbers as well."
Part of the reason why he hit either third or fourth for a majority of the season was his proficient hitting with runners in scoring position (.316) and with runners on base overall (.363).
While he hit just two home runs last year, he did finish fourth in the NY-Penn League with a .454 slugging percentage and most scouts figured his power potential could go up in 2007.
"I think my biggest strength is being able to hit for average and power when I need to," said a confident Martin. "A lot of people when they first see me don't think that I'm fast. I think that's a big part of my game as well, my speed on the bases."
While the fact that the team leader only had seven stolen bases did come as a bit of a shock, the fact that it was Martin's name atop of the list was not very surprising.
"Stealing bases," he said when asked which area of his game he wants to work on the most. "I didn't get to steal as many as I wanted to in Brooklyn because I had a lefty hitting behind me and I had to keep the hole open over there when I was on first base. I didn't get to steal as many as I wanted to. All of my coaches have been telling me I need to work on stealing more and utilize my speed. That's what I want to try to do."
As tremendous as he was offensively, the fact that Martin plays such solid defense in the outfield made him even more special in Brooklyn. Boasting a very strong arm and solid range, he has the ability to play all three outfield positions quite well.
"I play all of them," he said of the outfield positions. "I played all of them in college, all of them in Brooklyn, and all of them in Hawaii. I think I do fine in all of them. I think I get better jumps in centerfield because I can see where the pitch is going. I think my arm is fine from either center or right, but wherever they need me I think that will be my best fit."
Possessing all the tools in his game, able to hit for both power and average while stealing bases and playing all three outfield positions well, the Mets landed themselves a 'sleeper' prospect that conjures up images of another New York outfielder with similar traits.
"I think I might be able to develop into a Johnny Damon type of player," said Martin. "I know he hits for a good average every year and he has some good power numbers even though he's out of the leadoff spot. Hopefully I have a better arm than he does. Besides that, I've always idolized him and I think my game is kind of like his."
The New York Mets were so impressed with their talented outfielder that they sent him from the NY-Penn League to the revitalized Hawaiian Winter League in 2006 to test him against more polished competition.
He more than held his own, hitting .269 with six doubles and one home run in 26 games for the North Shore Honu.
"Things went really well in Hawaii," said the 23-year old. "I had a really good start. I played with a bunch of good well-rounded players. The pitching was tougher than it was in Brooklyn."
"Just the experience I received out there and learning from coaches from different teams is really going to help me out. It was fun being on the beaches out there everyday and being able to play the game in some really nice weather."
Being so versatile in the field and at the plate gives him an advantage over his fellow farmhands but it also makes it hard to predict his projected role with the Twins down the road.
"In Brooklyn I started out batting fourth, then I went to seven or eight when I was struggling but that was only for a week or two, then they put me in the leadoff spot for two weeks, and then I was in the three hole the rest of the way out," he said of his place in the batting order."
"In the bigs I could see myself from one down to five. I know my approach at the plate is different when I'm a leadoff hitter to a three or four hole hitter, I think I'm very flexible and I can get done what I know needs to be done."
After a breakout season in 2006, Martin had high hopes for the 2007 campaign.
"Well I hope my body stays up for the 140-game schedule," he said of his goals for 2007. "Hopefully my team will be playing well and keep my spirits high and that we're winning. I just want to out there and put up some good numbers average-wise and definitely get in a lot of RBI's because when you're driving in runs, nobody can get down on you for that."
"I want to win a championship," he continued, "I want to hit over .300, but .320 or .330 would be nice, get some more home runs under my belt because it's tough hitting home runs up there in Brooklyn with the wind blowing in all the time, and definitely steal a bunch more bases."
In 2007, Martin came over to the Twins in the Luis Castillo trade, after being one of the top outfielders in the Florida State League for the St. Lucie Mets. Martin immediately became one of the better young outfielders in the Twins organization, and could have an even brighter future in the Twins organization than he did with the Mets.
Though he did not hit over .300 for St. Lucie, he did hit a respectable .287 for the team, and smacked six triples. He began utilizing his speed, swiping 11 bases, and would actually bat better once he came to Fort Myers. For the Miracle, Martin batted .294, averaging better than a hit per game. He hit three home runs, swiped five bags, and set himself up for a promotion to New Britain next season.
Batting and Power. Martin employs a patient approach at the plate. He's more than willing to wait on his pitch to hit and draw walks. He had a career on-base percentage over .400 in college and he should be a similar batter in the pros. He is a good contact hitter with gap power. While he doesn't get the natural loft in his swing to be a plus home run hitter, most scouts believe he will be able to collect a ton of extra-base hits with adequate home run power.
Baserunning and Speed. Martin is an above-average runner with good speed. While he might not possess the speed of a top base stealer, he does have the aggressiveness and approach of one. He doesn't mind getting caught and that kind of mental makeup could allow him to be a very good base stealer at the professional level.
Defense. Martin can play all three outfield positions very well because of his solid range. He doesn't have the range of a starting centerfielder at the big league level however, but he's more than capable of holding down the spot in emergency situations. With his plus arm though, he is better served playing right field where he profiles as a plus defensive outfielder.
Projection. Martin's game is sound all-around. He is versatile in the field and in many offensive situations, and he can clearly make the big leagues as a wonderful reserve outfielder. But possessing great makeup and plate presence, he has an excellent shot to develop into something more. Martin has the potential to develop into a five-tool starting outfielder despite being drafted so late. He'll have to continue to put up the numbers to receive his shot, but he's off to a very good start.
ETA. 2009. When he was with the Mets organization, Martin was projected to make his Major League debut in 2010, but with the lack of depth in the outfield spots in the Twins farm system, he could actually get to the big leagues quicker. The Twins have no clear cut answers for the future outfield positions in their farm system, and if Martin gets off to a hot start in New Britain, he should be in Rochester by the end of the season. Though the Twins were sad to see Luis Castillo go, they have to be happy with what they got in return.