MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — When Jason Martin was at Orange Lutheran High School in California, he was known for his speed. But he soon found out he would need more than speed to compete with professional ballplayers after being drafted as a 17-year-old prospect by the Houston Astros in the eighth round of the 2013 MLB Draft.
It took him around three years to figure out what exactly he needed to add to his game, but he said he's thankful a hitting coach in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, brought it out of him.
He needed power.
“In high school working up to the draft, I always had good speed so that was pretty much what my game was. But then around 2016 I started to notice I was growing into my body and I was using it in ways I hadn’t before,” Martin said as the Indianapolis Indians enjoyed a day off Monday before hitting the road to Louisville. “I was getting the ball up in the air and was letting it fly a little more. That’s when I became a dual threat.”
In 50 games of rookie ball out of high school, Martin didn't hit a single home run and slugged only two doubles. In 2016 in Advanced-A ball, he put 23 over the fence. He followed that up with 18 in 2017 and 13 in 2018.
He needed comfort with his swing, he said, something he’d been working on from the time he was drafted. His initial swing was clunky, and he worked to iron it out. But it wasn’t all about home-run power. He now knew, he said, that he could put balls into the gap and use his speed to carry him around the bases and put himself in scoring position.
His improved prowess with the bat, among other reasons, earned him a spot on the Pirates roster earlier this season after he was traded from the Astros organization in the Gerrit Cole trade last year.
If you didn’t know, Martin was all smiles about the call-up.
[caption id="attachment_829852" align="aligncenter" width="1572"] Jason Martin smiles during his MLB debut. — MATT SUNDAY/DKPS[/caption]
He hit .229 with two doubles in 35 at-bats with the big-league club before being sent back down to Triple-A May 1. In 15 games with the Tribe, he’s hitting .224 with two homers, two triples and three doubles, but he expects better of himself, he said.