After logging only three appearances in his debut year back in 2021, Seth Martínez was a much more important bullpen piece for the Astros in 2022. Originally selected from the rule 5 draft, the 28-year-old righty dominated even though he had what we could call a low-profile role this year, something that could change in 2023 to a certain degree.
Martínez pitched 29 times for Houston in its championship year, most of them in low-leverage scenarios. Across 38 2/3 innings, he surrendered 26 hits and nine earned runs while walking 14 hitters and striking out 38. His ERA finished the season at 2.09, and his WHIP closed at 1.03. These are pretty acceptable numbers that could lead to something bigger moving forward.
What’s good about Martínez, despite that he doesn’t throw hard –his fastball averages 91.9 MPH— is that he induces soft contact: opponents' exit velocity averaged 86.6 MPH this year. Also, their expected batting average was a remarkable .198. And even though he’s not a flamethrower, Martínez mixes his pitches well and enjoys a good fastball-slider combination to strike people out.
In fact, that two-pitch mix gave him a great outcome. Martínez struck out 32 hitters either with his four-seamer or his slider and limited rivals to a .189 batting average due to only 17 hits over 90 at-bats. In general, he’s a crafty pitcher that knows how to stay away, how to get ahead in the count and make hitters chase at an acceptable rate.
Martínez goes to the mound with a game plan. Based on what his 2022 was, he attacks lefties with his fastball and changeup. Against righties, you’ll almost only see sliders and sinkers.
The upcoming 2023 season can be a pretty important one for Martínez’s career, especially if two things happen. First, he needs to be thrown into the fire and prove that he can dominate in high-leverage environments. Second, he needs to be more of the pitcher he was during the first part of the 2022 season.
Throughout his first 16 appearances of the year, Martínez was completely outstanding, going 24 innings and allowing only 11 hits and two earned runs. He didn’t issue many walks (8) and sat down 24 opponents on strikes. Also, he surrendered only one home run and limited rivals to a .136/.222/.185 slash line while posting a 0.75 ERA.
Things changed a bit after mid-July, though. Martínez posted a 4.30 ERA and a .707 opponent OPS in his final 14 2/3 innings. The good part is that he was actually better in his final six trips to the mound, as he finished the season with six scoreless innings, five hits, one walk, and seven punchouts. That’s the Seth Martínez the Astros would love to see in 2023.