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Who is Corbin Martin?

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MLB: Texas Rangers at Houston Astros Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or have been out of touch the past few days, you’ve probably heard that Corbin Martin came up and dominated, making MLB hitters looking downright foolish. While Martin’s start was surprising, it was not a shock to those who have been following our prospects as they’ve made their way through the system. Let’s take a step back to look at his past and how we got to today.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Louisville vs Texas A&M Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Spencer did an excellent write up on Martin on draft day:

“The Astros continue to accumulate excellent value on day one, selecting their second college power arm with Aggies righty Corbin Martin. A 6’3”, 200 pound starter and reliever, Martin gets great action on his fastball which sits in the low nineties as a starter and the mid to upper nineties as a reliever. His curveball is also a plus pitch with tight sweeping break, and could induce a lot of whiffs at the next level. He also shows feel for a slider and change, the latter of which has shown notable improvement recently.”

The whole article is worth a read, but it highlights that Martin was considered potentially a 1st round draft pick with some concerns in regards to his command and his size. These were Mike Elias’ comments on Martin at the time of draft

“Martin was one of Texas A&M’s best pitchers this year,” Astros director of scouting and player development Mike Elias said. “They moved him from the bullpen to the starting rotation later in the season. His stuff held up. We believe he’s got pitches that project very well on the Major League level.”

John Sickels of MinorLeagueBall.com describes Martin’s stuff: “He has an overpowering breaking ball, a big power curve that’s a definite plus pitch. He also has a decent slider, and since moving into the starting role (shortly after the ’17 season began after a stint in the bullpen) he’s shown the ability to use a good change-up, too.

From an excellent interview by Jayne Hansen at What the Heck Bobby, Drew French, the Pitching Coach for Buies Creek, was effusive in his praise for Martin, “He was the John Wayne of our staff when in Buies Creek. His mentality and ability to compete pitch in and pitch out really stood out. He has three plus off-speed pitches that he can throw to either bat side. The curveball was really improving during the short time he was here, being able to land it in zone and expand with two strikes. His changeup is a great weak contact pitch that he can locate down and started to become a two-strike weapon before his promotion. His slider is a wipeout pitch that got a ton of swing and miss. He started getting more comfortable hitting with it early in the count and then going to a better location with two strikes. He has options for sure when it comes to his offspeed. It is no surprise that he is continuing to put his game together and flourishing in AA.”

MLB: Spring Training-Houston Astros at Detroit Tigers Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

In their pre-season rankings, here is what Spencer and AstrosFuture had to say:

4. Corbin Martin, RHP

Current Level: AA

ETA: 2019

DOB: 12/28/95

Martin was a polarizing prospect in the draft with some seeing him as a first round talent and others seeing him as a mid round pick due to concerns as a starter. The Astros selected him in the second round and he has been great. He started the 2018 season in Buies Creek and struck out 26 batters in 19 scoreless innings while allowing just 4 hits, earning him a quick promotion to AA. Martin’s first start in Double-A was rough but he got rolling after that one. He pitched in 20 games after that first outing and he had a 2.45 ERA (3.26 FIP) with 96 K in 102.2 innings. Overall he had a 2.51 ERA (3.07 FIP) and struck out 122 in 122 innings. Martin has a mid 90s fastball, a plus slider, and an above average changeup. He had a great first full season in the minors and is on the cusp of a callup after just being drafted two years ago.

2018 Stats: 25 G, 2.51 ERA, 122.0 IP, 88 H, 35 BB, 122 K, 3.49 K/BB

If you want to do some more reading on him here are some great articles:

Corbin Martin Season Review - by Spencer Morris

Fangraphs Ranked Corbin #3 on the Astros and #50 overall

2080 Scouting Report

Martin continues to Improve - Baseball America

Martin lives his dream pitching for the Astros

Getting to know Corbin Martin - What the Heck Bobby

The Arsenal

Corbin threw 3 pitches during his first start. All of these are EXTREMELY small sample size, but here is a quick look at the Statcast data. (Technically statcast has 1 pitch classified as a Sinker at 97 mph, but it may have been a mis-classified pitch)

4-Seamer - 95.7 MPH / 2,411 RPM

Curve - 84.3 MPH / 2,725 RPM

Change-up - 88 MPH / 2,073 RPM

His wOBA came in at .261 vs an xwOBA of .197, which indicates his start didn’t look to be fluky / “luck” driven, though take all of this with a grain of salt as we’re talking about just over 5 innings.

Looking forward, Martin had a stellar start to the year, and I don’t think many fans are anticipating him to replicate the same results through-out the year. It was encouraging to see him keep his walks low (and obviously the 15.19 K/9 is a beautiful thing). Last year, Martin was able to hone his control dropping his BB/9 rate down to 2.45 across 103 IP. His start to this year was not as ideal with it jumping back up to 4.07 (note: this was a small sample size and they could have had him working on something specific)

For now, let’s enjoy the bliss, here’s a clip of his 9 strike-outs that I recorded. (Apologies - phone recording from a projector isn’t always as crisp as you’d hope for).

What a time to be an Astros fan!