Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Getting to Know Astros/River Bandits OF Jason Martin

I had the opportunity to watch Quad Cities OF Jason Martin in action over the weekend and I came away impressed with what I saw. Last year in Greeneville, I saw a very young player with a lot of raw talent. A high school drafted player in 2013, Martin is still young (he won't turn 20 until early next month), but the hard work that he's done has turned him into a more polished player than I had seen in 2014.

In his first 83 games with Quad Cities this season, Martin has hit .288/.360/.436 with 10 doubles, six triples and eight home runs. He has scored 57 runs and driven in 47. He has walked 36 times to 58 strikeouts, and has 13 stolen bases to nine caught stealing. And he is almost two and a half years younger than the average Midwest League position player.

I spoke with Quad Cities Manager Josh Bonifay about several players. When I brought up Martin's name, Bonifay immediately smiled and said, "Aw man, he's like my son. I love that kid." Bonifay described Martin as having a prototypical centerfield body, but also pointed out his developing power and RBI potential. Bonifay continued, "He's a very exciting player. He's young. He can steal a bag. He can play defense. And he can hit. I love having the kid. I've had him since almost day one and it's just been a pleasure watching him blossom into a good young (player and) man."

Jason Martin - August 2015
Photo by Jayne Hansen

My first question to Martin was regarding his season in progress and he responded, "I feel like this season I've been playing pretty well. I set some goals at the beginning of the season that I'm getting pretty close to. Improving my game at the plate -- I think I've done that as well as my game in the outfield. So I think the season's going pretty good this far."

As far as what he's been working on, Martin told me, "I think a lot of it is in my baserunning, stealing bases. This year I've been working on it, but I just haven't quite gotten to the point that I think I should be. So I just want to keep working on my baserunning. I think everything else is going at a pretty good pace."

Bonifay isn't worried about Martin's baserunning, though. "That's a part of his being so young. (He's) 19 years old and we're all in this game to learn. We're all in it to develop. And that's one of his skill sets that (he's) been working on so hard here (with Baserunning Coach Tim Garland) is to improve his base stealing jumps. He's got great speed to do it. And once he learns a little more about tendencies, once he learns a little more about reads, he's going to be a player to watch for a while. He's very exciting," said Bonifay.

Martin is in his third season as a professional, but he remembers only too well what it was like to be drafted out of high school. His advice to the recent high school draftees? Martin said, "It's a way longer season than high school. It's wear and tear on the body. You've got to make sure you eat right and you're mentally strong. You have a bad day at the plate, you've got to let it go. There's another game tomorrow. Just a lot of little things change in pro ball from high school."

For someone who has yet to see Martin play, he said that they could expect to see "an electric player (who) uses his speed." Martin continued, "My game revolves around my speed and this year I was able to actually show a bit of power so I think I'm growing into that, but just a player who gives his all every day."

What Astros pitcher would he least like to face? "He's gone now, but it would have been (Josh) Hader because lefty on lefty. He's pretty good and that would be a tough match up. Now that he's gone, I'd say Vince Velasquez. Vince Velasquez has a really strong arm and he has command of his stuff. He knows what to throw and when to throw it. He's just a good pitcher," said Martin. When asked if he would be up to the challenge, Martin laughed and said he would be. "He's one of my buddies. I'd love to go up against him."

If Martin couldn't play baseball, he probably would have gone the football route as far as that would have taken him since he also played football in high school. He also revealed that he was in honors choir in high school, a little known fact that drew a few laughs from the spectators in the dugout that were listening in. But he promised me that he doesn't go around singing in the clubhouse.

One of my followers told me that, now that Brett Phillips has been traded, Jason Martin is now his favorite Astros minor leaguer. When I relayed that to Jason and asked him if he thought he could fill Brett's shoes, he gave me his best smile and with a twinkle in his eye, he said, "Yeah. He's a great player and he had a great year last year and is having a great year this year too, but I think I'm right behind him. I think I'm chasing in his footsteps." It's not bragging if you can back it up, and Martin shows every sign that he will be able to do just that.

Martin left me with this thought, "I know that we're down here trying to win this championship for Quad Cities. We're on a pretty good pace if we can just keep it going." And with a minor league leading 74 wins (to 38 losses) and an exciting talented player like Martin in their ranks, I like the River Bandits chances of bringing home some hardware this season.

Thank you for your time, Jason, and best of luck as you continue to chase your dreams.

1 comment:

  1. This kid is going to surprise a lot of folks with his power.