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When the Rangers signed Cuban defector Leonys Martin to a five-year, $15.5 million contract in May of 2011, they were envisioning him as a potential long-term solution in center field.
Knowing that Josh Hamilton's persistent health woes make him a better candidate for left, rather than center field, the Rangers signed the young, athletic Cuban with hopes that he may quickly progress through their system and land in Arlington in the near future.
Martin, who will turn 24 during Spring Training, is highly-rated in most facets of the game, earning above-average to All-Star caliber grades in most areas aside from bat-speed and power. In an ESPN piece by Jim Bowden around the time of Martin's signing, his scouting report included the following assessment of his raw skills.
Leonys Martin Scouting Report
|Bat speed ||50
|Mental toughness ||60
Definition of scouting grades:
80 -- Hall of Famer
70 -- Superstar
60 -- All-Star Caliber player/Silver Slugger/Gold Glove
55 -- Above-average major league player
50 -- Average major league player
45 -- Below-average major league player
40 -- Role player
35 -- Minor league player
In that same article, Bowden shared Texas GM Jon Daniel's assessment of Martin:
6-2, 190 -- could have been a wide receiver. Left/Right (has actually played some shortstop in the past, but we feel is true CF). Plus runner (3.7 on drag bunt yesterday) but not a burner. Instinctive in field and on basepaths. Has some pull power and will drive ball, but is more of a line-drive gap to gap approach. True leadoff guy with feel for strike zone and understanding of his role and value of getting on base. 6 arm (60 on our scale). Smart, aptitude and driven.
As far as baseball scouts and Jon Daniels are concerned, Martin looks to be a premium athlete with the skill set necessary to succeed at the MLB level.
During his limited action in Texas' minor league system, Martin has delivered mixed results. Over his 29-game stint with the double-A Frisco Rough Riders, Martin excelled, hitting .348 with a 1.007 OPS, drawing 15 walks and striking out only eight times in 135 plate appearances. He found triple-A Round Rock to be slightly more difficult, as he hit .263 with a meager OPS of only .630. Triple-A pitchers only walked him 11 times to his 24 strikeouts and he slugged only .314 after his promotion.
One area where he did improve after jumping levels was in his base-stealing. Although he is not expected to be an elite thief, he stole nine bags in 11 attempts in triple-A, compared to 10 in 18 attempts at double-A Frisco.
Regardless of his struggles at Round Rock, the Rangers have high hopes for Martin. Hamilton is likely entrenched in left permanently, Endy Chavez moved on to Baltimore, Craig Gentry has yet to fully impress by now and Borbon is raising eyebrows with his defensive ineptitude, so the position appears available for Martin to claim.
He may still need some seasoning in the minors, but with a strong Spring Training, it seems within the realm of possibility that Leonys Martin could potentially break camp as the Rangers' starting center fielder.