In Spring Training, when I assessed the Rangers position-by-position, I wrote off centerfield as a loss. I wrote off Leonys Martin and wondered how long it would take Ranger brass to upgrade the position. I hoped that Martin would tank early so that the super-impressive Michael Choice could take over in centerfield.
Despite the fact that Martin was only 25 years old in 2013 and in his first season as a Major League regular, I was not sold on what I saw last year. Granted, there were holes in his game. He struck out, a lot. 104 times as a matter of fact, while hitting a mere .260. He stole 36 bases but was caught nine times. He committed five errors. I thought that was about all Martin would be good for, an average hitter with questionable defense who could be trouble on the basepaths but would struggle to get on consistently enough to take advantage of it; otherwise known as almost every Ranger centerfielder in history.
If you wouldn’t mind, would you please pass me that big ole plate of crow, ’cause I need to chow down.
Martin has been a revelation in center for Texas this year. Tuesday night’s game in Oakland was another example of the impact that Martin has had this year. In the second inning with the game tied 2-2, Martin nabbed Jed Lowrie‘s fly ball and gunned a throw home, nailing C John Jaso at the plate to end the inning and put out a Oakland rally. That play turned out to be huge later in the game and it helped young Nick Martinez settle down after a rough start.
Then, in the ninth inning with the Rangers down 4-3 and runner at third, Martin attempted a squeeze bunt. Either Martin or baserunner Mitch Moreland missed a sign, resulting in Moreland’s being thrown out at home. The Rangers were down to their last out, but Martin stole second, then scored the tying run on Josh Wilson‘s RBI double. Not only did he save the team a run with his defense, but he also bailed them out after the missed opportunity on the squeeze.
It’s been that way all year for Martin. His range in the outfield has allowed him to track down balls that seemed to be sure trouble off the bat. He has shown better instincts this year and always seems to get a good break and take proper angles to the ball.
At the plate, Martin is hitting .303 after Tuesday night’s contest and has improved his OBP from .313 to .37o. He leads the majors with 2 triples and has added a homer and a double. He’s second on the team with 5 stolen bases to Elvis Andrus. More importantly, he seems to be coming up big in the biggest moments. He seems to do something good every game.
Martin’s play has far exceeded my expectations for him this year and I couldn’t be happier about it. He has been a joy to watch this year, both in the field and at the plate. Hopefully, he can stay healthy and continue to build on his hot start. If he does, it appears that the Rangers have found their CF for the next several years.