Assessing Leonys Martin

05/15/2011 10:24 AM -  Pete Sullivan

Martin has already made it to Double A; how soon until he reaches the majors?Remember the name Leonys Martin.

The Cuban defector who recently signed a three year contract with the Texas Rangers has now been promoted to the Rangers Double-A Frisco club.

Every report I’ve seen on Leonys Martin describes him as an above average fielder with good speed and gap power.  That’s not what you really need to know, however.

What you really need to know is that it seems clear that Julio Borbon just doesn’t get it.  “It” being baseball instinct.  This isn’t something that Rangers brass is going to say publicly of course, but its also something that they have to be fully aware of.  Borbon simply doesn’t appear to have the “baseball instinct” that you need to have to perform successfully at the big league level.

Whether you’re talking about bumping into the right fielder who’s literally standing underneath a descending fly ball, diving for a ball you have no chance to get to with runners on base, or attempting to bunt at a pitch that’s shoulder high, Borbon’s instincts (or lack thereof) consistently produce failed results.

Speed can cure many ills.  Yet, not even speed can erase all ill advised decisions.  Beyond that you should really be concerned as a GM or manager that the plays that could be made are not being made.  They won’t be made often by the Rangers current center fielder.  You can’t teach instinct.  This is what I believe the Rangers have finally accepted as they promote Cuban product Martin to Frisco.

Leonys Martin per Rangers GM Jon Daniels is “instinctive in field and on basepaths” .

What the Rangers need for a stacked offensive lineup is a player who can work counts and get on base.  They need a leadoff hitter.  Ian Kinsler has shown flashes of the ability to perform at the leadoff position, but Kinsler is simply too streaky right now and too concerned about hitting for power to ever be considered a prototypical leadoff hitter.  Martin, playing in Cuba and in the FISU World University Championships (8 walks in the tournament) has shown a solid ability to get on base.  Martin averaged .314 at the plate playing for Villa Clara in the Cuban league over the last five seasons.  Last year he hit .326 with 10 HR’s and 48 RBI.

Even more importantly in an offense that already has run producers, the Rangers need a player who can make all the plays he’s supposed to make.  That has definitely not been the case with Borbon.  A really poor spring training carried over into a poor start to 2011 both at the plate and more importantly in the field.

Watching Borbon play on a daily basis; you see him take the wrong angle on balls, fail to get a great read and make poor decisions way too often.  His throws from center field to be fair have been better this year.  Borbon can thank his own hard work and coach Gary Pettis for that improvement.  The fact is that Leonys Martin today would be an improvement defensively in center field over Julio Borbon.

That is the reason you need to remember the name Leonys Martin.  He’s going to be here sooner than you or the Rangers might have thought, he should be able to get on base and fulfill what the Rangers need, both offensively and defensively.  Expect that to happen before September.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Martin patrolling center field in Arlington by the All-Star break at all.

From a fantasy perspective Martin should eventually hit for average, show gap to increasing power and provide good OBP and good (not huge) SB numbers.  If your league has a category for runs Martin will be even more valuable leading off in the stacked Rangers lineup in a hitters ballpark. The other side of the fantasy perspective is that Borbon owners should expect to see the Julio Borbon experiment officially come to an end this season.  Borbon likely ends up losing his every day at bats in Arlington sooner rather than later.  Because of his age (25) he’s going to get another shot with someone, who that will be remains to be seen.

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