Russell Martin, who has long-since emerged as one of the better offensive catchers in all of Major League Baseball, continued his torrid start to the Spring Training season yesterday, hitting yet another home run – this time against the Baltimore Orioles.
In six games this spring, the 31-year-old Canadian is 8-for-15 with nine RBIs. Half of those eight hits have left the ballpark.
According to an ESPN article, Martin had not homered in three of his previous four Spring Training seasons.
Martin has become a critical part of this Pittsburgh club not only as a dependable backstop, but as a catcher who can do some damage at the plate, as well. Last season, he hit for a poor average, coming in at .226 in 127 games with the Pirates, but he also hit 15 home runs and drove in 55 runs, decent enough numbers for a catcher.
His average was higher in the early years of his career, which were spent with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but as he’s aged, his numbers have fallen in terms of making contact, and he’s become more of a power-driven player when at the plate. Martin becomes a free agent after the 2014 season, leaving many to wonder whether or not he will resign with Pittsburgh at season’s end.
With Martin’s work with the Pirates’ pitching staff last year, it’s hard to envision a situation where Pittsburgh lets him walk. Chris Stewart is slated to be Martin’s backup this season and the team’s top catching prospect, 19-year-old Reese McGuire, hasn’t played above short-season ball after being drafted with the 14th overall pick last June by the Pirates.
McGuire showed plenty of promise in his first professional season, hitting a combined .323/.380/.380 between Rookie Level ball and short-season Jamestown, lacing 11 doubles and driving in 21 runs in 50 games. Although he showed his talent, he has yet to play a full professional season or even play Class-A ball, so he’s likely several years away from appearing on the big stage for the Pirates.
Martin not only provides short-term stability behind the plate for Pittsburgh, but offers the team a chance to lock up a mentor for its young catching prospect down the road. Now is the time to sign Martin to an extension before another team makes him a target in the coming offseason.