M’s Grab Cody Martin Off Waiver Wire
So the M’s are officially building their reliever pile before the 2015 season is officially over. Yesterday, they acquired RHP Cody Martin – an ex-Gonzaga Bulldog – off of waivers and added him to the 40-man, bumping Logan Kensing. Martin made his MLB debut for the Atlanta Braves in 2015, then moved to Oakland in a deal for international bonus pool slots. That’s…that’s not a great track record, and your feelings about the move won’t improve much if you look at his big league stats. Martin had the reputation of a potential high-K reliever with GB tendencies despite so-so raw stuff. While Martin may have K’d a few more than you’d expect for a guy throwing 90-91, his HR rate made it irrelevant. And while we shouldn’t expect Martin to continue giving up 2.35 HRs per 9 innings pitched, his ultra-low GB% makes you think HRs will always be part of the picture with him.
Looking into his season, though, and there are some limited reasons for optimism. He was intriguing in April, before scuffling in May and then turning in several nightmarish performances for Oakland. It’s far too simplistic to say that Oakland broke Cody Martin – he’d been sent down by Atlanta before he got to Oakland – but Oakland certainly didn’t do him any favors. With Atlanta, Martin threw a high fastball at about 91mph, and paired it with a slider at 83 and a slow curve at 73-74. This is not a remarkable arsenal, but Martin had some success with it at times, despite his lack of velo and sporadic lack of confidence in his breakers (he threw 25 FBs in 28 pitches in one outing). His FB movement wouldn’t seem to lend itself to Chris Young-style top-of-the-zone targeting, as it’s got essentially “normal” rise as opposed to elite vertical movement. With good enough command, it’s not the worst approach – Alex Wood throws 89-91 and starts, after all, and while Martin’s delivery isn’t as…unusual as Wood’s, the hitch in it might make him slightly more difficult to time.
All of that brings us to where Martin ended up the year – getting absolutely destroyed by AL teams as a member of the Oakland A’s. With Atlanta, Martin’s K% was 26%, well above average. With the A’s it plummeted to just 6%. Worse, he wasn’t averaging 91 anymore, but often averaged 89 on his fastball. So did the M’s just pick up damaged goods? I mean, he’s a pitcher, so the answer is always “maybe” but the real story is that the A’s apparently overhauled his repertoire, and it backfired. Instead of having Martin throw more curves with his high four-seamer, the A’s tried to make him the latest in their Brandon McCarthy-styled cutter/sinker guys. It worked with McCarthy, it worked with Jesse Chavez, it sort of worked – periodically – with Drew Pomeranz. It’s not a crazy idea, but Martin really, really didn’t take to it. His cutter averaged about 86-87, or about what Tommy Milone’s does. Whether because he was focused on his cutter or because pitch fx was confusing some FBs and cutters, Martin’s four-seam velo dropped, and his curve – which had the makings of a swing-and-miss pitch in Atlanta – was hit hard. He gave up three HRs in 3 IP to Chicago on a cutter and two sliders. The cutter came in at 88, while the sliders were 85-86, much faster than the ones he threw in Atlanta. There’s no separation between the fastball/cutter/slider, and all of them got punished as a result.
If I’m with Seattle, I tell Martin to forget everything he learned in Oakland. The cutter? Gone. If he wants to throw his true slider again, that’s fine, but make it as un-cutterish as he can get it, and then work on curveball command. The high fastball approach will play in Seattle better than it did in Atlanta, and at least he’s got a chance at some strikeouts. Interestingly, in both Atlanta and Oakland, Martin fared a bit better against lefties than righties. The same was true in AAA Nashville. That may be a delivery issue, where he’s a bit more deceptive to lefties, and it may be the result – at least in Atlanta – of not throwing his breaking stuff enough to same-handed hitters. In any event, it’s a concerning stat that we can’t blame on Oakland.
So: Martin has some distressing recent numbers, but there are some positive signs, too. He’ll also have some time to develop, as he should have options left – he wasn’t protected by the Braves in last year’s Rule 5 draft, and was only added to the 40-man when he made the club out of spring training. If he doesn’t make the M’s, we might see him in Tacoma in 2016.