Opportunity Seeker: Leonys Martin
The person I’ve seen most often mentioned as the benefactor of Josh Hamilton’s departure has been David Murphy; and while Murphy will certainly have to “carry more of the burden”, he was a 450+ at-bat guy already. The real interesting development will be in Hamilton’s vacated centerfield spot. The Rangers have the righty swinging Craig Gentry, who hit .304/.367/.392 last season and has a career slash line of .279/.344/.355. Sure, that’s a reasonable line and Gentry does have 31 stolen bases over the last two seasons but the most interesting name involved in filling the void for fantasy owners is Leonys Martin.
The now 25 year old Cuban (turned 25 on March 6) has the opportunity to make a big impact in both real life and fantasy leagues this Spring. According to MLB Depth Charts Martin is slated to get at-bats on the strong side of the platoon, sharing time with Gentry. While Martin has struggled during his brief big league call ups (career slash of .204/.254/.370 in 54 at-bats) he has excelled in the minor leagues and has a slash line of .324/.390/.502 in the upper minors. Along with great on-base skills and solid power (enhanced by the the run environments of the PCL, of course), Martin features plus speed that remains unrefined. He keeps his average afloat using infield hits and bunting for base hits, but over his career in the minor leagues has only been successful on 29 of 49 attempts. While that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of his speed, we should note that his primary competition in centerfield (Gentry) was only 13/20 himself last year. Martin has solid pop and can show impressive power in batting practice, though he hasn’t seen that translate into game power, at least as far as home runs are concerned. He did connect for 12 home runs in only 231 at-bats in Triple-A in 2012, but I’m inclined to give most of that credit to the PCL. With a strong handle on the strike zone, Martin should be able to reach base enough to put his speed to use and perhaps major league coaching will help him refine his basestealing technique.
Over a full season Martin should be able to offer plenty of value, including 20 stolen base ability with enough average and power that he won’t hurt you in other categories. In fact, he could be a boon in on-base or OPS leagues with his solid pop and knowledge of the strike zone. He shouldn’t suffer the learning curve you might expect out of a rookie, having played in the majors (albeit briefly) in 2011 and 2012. The bottom line is that Texas doesn’t have anyone else to turn to, so the at-bats should be there for him. A solid table-setter ahead of the bats in the Texas lineup has plenty of value. Martin was hyped up a considerable amount heading into 2012 as a centerfield option that would push Josh Hamilton to a corner. That obviously didn’t happen, leaving many owners feeling burned. You can use that to your benefit as he’s been undersold heading in 2013 while his path to playing time is far more secure. He’s something of a post-hype sleeper without a ton of hype to begin with. The level of hype he’s received will be irrelevant when you’re reaping the benefits though.