When I first started in this business, you know blogging, back in November of 2019, the first article I chose to write was about a young left handed first baseman that I had gone to see play toward the end of the summer at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida. That evening the Pirates High A Affiliate, the Bradenton Marauders took on the Port Charlotte Stone Crabs and the #1 Prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Wander Franco. This was a bonus for me and my family, but the real treat was getting to see the young Buccos play and of course the kiddos getting autographs afterwards.
As a self proclaimed Prospect Junkie, I had many players on my radar that night, but at the top of the list was the 20 year-old Pirates Prospect that had taken the system and actually all of MiLB by storm with his raw power. Earlier that summer Mason Martin’s name had started to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue; from amateurs like myself to the professionals for sites and podcasts such as MLB Pipeline and MiLB.com’s The Show Before The Show. Many were left to question, how did he get to this point and where exactly did he come from?
Martin was drafted in the 17th round (508 overall) of the 2017 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Southridge High School in Kennewick, Washington. Upon being drafted he started his professional career in the Gulf Coast League where he split his time between 1st Base and each of the outfield positions. After hitting .309 with a 1.087 OPS and 11 home runs he was promoted to the West Virginia Black Bears and ultimately the Bristol Pirates by the end of the 2018 season. His power continued throughout this season as he hit 11 home runs, but his batting average sank to .220. Because of these 2018 struggles Mason started this past season with the Pirates Low A team, the Greensboro Grasshoppers instead of beginning the year in High A. It was apparent from the beginning of the season that Mason was ready to move up to the next level.
He hit 23 home runs in 82 games for the Grasshoppers, to go along with a .262/.361/.578 slash line and 83 RBI’s. After earning the promotion to the Bradenton Marauders of the Florida State League, Martin went on to hit 12 additional home runs and drive in 46 more RBI’s for a total of 35 home runs (tied for 4 in all of MILB) and 129 RBI’s (#1 in all of MILB).
Since he entered the Pirates Minor League system his power has never been a question. He is rated as a 65 for his raw power on a scale from 20-80, with 50 being the average. His two main issues thus far has been his strike-out rate and his speed, which at times limits his defensive ability . This past summer he posted a 29% Strike-Out Percentage in Greensboro and a 32.3% Strike-Out Percentage in Bradenton. Both a lack of speed and a high strike out rate are common among hitters with Martin’s power, but we’ve seen guys become successful at the Major League level with very similar tools.
Currently his Major League options are limited to playing 1st Base and DH, which could ultimately be a benefit to him if the designated hitter remains in the National League beyond the 2020 season. Other potential good news for Mason is that the only people I really see as obstacles to playing time for the Pirates are Will Craig and Josh Bell. Craig has seen very limited action thus far for the Pirates and Bell will be an unrestricted free agent in 2023, if he remains on the Pirates through his entire contract. Prior to the 2020 season most experts were of the opinion Martin was set to reach the major league club in 2023, which would put him right in line to take over the starting role from the jump.
However, as we all know now 2020 has not been a normal year; so, as it has come to be with with many Minor League players the outlook for Martin could possibly have changed. Back in February he was assigned to the big league club and participated in a few of the Spring Training games, just as he had the year before. Then came the shutdown and all of the uncertainty that came with it. When baseball operations finally resumed at the end of July the Pirates current #18 Prospect on MLB Pipeline was one of the lucky Minor Leaguers that was invited to the alternate site in Altoona. And according to many, including Garett Mansfield, Play-By-Play Broadcaster and Director of Communications for the Altoona Curve, Martin’s power has continued to impress at People’s Natural Gas Field; which is where I would expect him to start out 2021. This of course is just a guess because as of right now nothing is certain as to how things will proceed in the following days, let alone seven or eight months from now.