J.D. Martin Deserves A Shot

As we head towards the trading deadline, it seems like every contender in baseball is shopping for a starting pitcher, and they’re all complaining that there aren’t any available. The guys who were expected to be available aren’t as of yet, thanks to trips to the disabled list or the fact that they’re teams just aren’t ready to sell yet, so organizations like Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Texas are just cooling their heals, trying to patch their holes internally while hoping that the market opens up in July.

Well, I have a suggestion. Rather than sitting around for a month, losing games that will come back to haunt you in September, why not give a kid a shot who deserves one and certainly won’t be getting one in his current organization. That kid is J.D. Martin, currently destroying the International League as the ace of the Syracuse Skychiefs.

Martin was signed as a minor league free agent over the winter by the Nationals to provide some Triple-A pitching depth, and while the Nationals have a lot of problems, they don’t lack for young pitching options in their rotation. It’s unlikely that they’ll be giving Martin a look this summer, and if he’s not traded, he’ll probably spend the whole year in Syracuse.

However, he’s earned a shot at the big leagues. A former first round pick of the Indians in 2001, he’s overcome some arm problems and has begun to show durability that was always a question mark. Despite standing 6’4, Martin is a strike-thrower with a below average fastball who lives off of his change-up. That package works a lot better in the minors than it does in the majors, but extreme users of this skillset can provide useful innings in the big leagues.

Martin is definitely an extreme strike thrower. He’s walked 7 batters in 70 innings so far this year while racking up 52 strikeouts and a league average groundball rate. When you pound the zone that often and aren’t getting torched for copious amounts of fly balls, you’re doing enough things right to get hitters out. This is, essentially, the Minnesota Twins model of pitching. Carlos Silva, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, and Nick Blackburn have all been successful in the Twin Cities while throwing below average fastballs over the plate a lot.

Other teams are still skeptical of the command-and-change-up right-handed pitcher, however, and guys like Martin have trouble finding a major league job. While it’s true that there’s almost no star potential in this skillset, and the upside offered is that of a #5 starter who will depend on his defense to help him get through 5 or 6 innings, that kind of pitcher can help a contender in the right situation. Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Texas could all use a guy like Martin right now.

If they’d overlook the lack of big time velocity, they’d find that there are pitchers out there who could be acquired right now and could help patch a hole in their rotation. J.D. Martin deserves a shot in the majors, and with all the teams currently whining about the lack of available pitching, one of them should give Washington a call and give the kid an opportunity.

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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

33 Responses to “J.D. Martin Deserves A Shot”

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  1. drivlikejehu says:

    Your comparison to the Twins’ staff is pretty inaccurate. When Silva was on, his fastball was well above average. During his peak 2005 season, it averaged 92.1 mph and had tons of movement.

    Baker and Blackburn both have solid average fastballs. And it’s not like Baker is a finesse pitcher- his K/9 rate is 7.55. Blackburn has a low K-rate because, like Silva, he has no ‘out pitch.’

    Slowey’s fastball is below average, but his command goes way beyond chucking the ball over the plate. His ability to locate the fastball plays it up dramatically- to the tune of a ‘wFB’ of 22.7 in his 311 career innings. For a comparison, Josh Beckett’s was 22.5 from ’04-’05 with the Marlins- 335 IP.

    There is a big difference between a fastball’s velocity and its effectiveness. A pitcher without great movement or velocity (e.g., Martin), needs to be able to do much more than throw the ball over the plate to succeed in the Majors.

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  2. Sandy Kazmir says:

    I watched him pitch against Rochester and was raving about him after the start. K:BB is otherworldy. If someone did get on, it seemed like the next batter was a easy one hop DP. What else do the Natinals have going for them?

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  3. David Vigneault says:

    I have been watching this kid ptch all year. He is the best in the National’s organization right now. The Nationals need a spark. Seems all too logical that Martin would get the shot. I guess the organization would rather spend their dear money (or lack thereof) on rehabbing a million dollar pticher (Olsen) who was also a 1.5 million dollar loser last year. The kid deserves, NO…has earned… his shot. Come on…JD needs to be sent to DC. I can hear the fans now…”JD, JD, JD, JD…” He will not disappoint.

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  4. Will says:

    Dave, I’m not sure your correct saying Martin won’t get a shot this year, because of their excess of young pitchers. It’s precisely the opposite. Martin will very likely get a chance this year BECAUSE the Nats have so many young pitchers, all of whom are on strict inning limits.

    Jordan Zimmermann should pitch about 130 innings this year, he’s already at 75.
    Ross Detwiler should max out at 150, he’s thrown 60.
    Shairon Martis should throw no more than 165 IP, he’s at 81.
    Lannan should be able to finish with around 200+ IP.
    Craig Stammen should also be good for about a full season.

    Keeping in mind that Zimmermann, Detwiler and Martis are all in danger of getting shut down before September, JD Martin will certainly get his chance, and that’s not even considering the potential for injuries.

    I’m dreading Olsen’s return, but it looks like the Nats management isn’t too eager for his return either, as they haven’t yet set a date for his return, despite making a few rehab starts in AAA.

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  5. Will says:

    Also, what type of return could the Nats expect for Martin? As a guy who’s never pitched in the majors, I can’t imagine other teams would be willing to give too much to get him, so I think it would be in the Nats’ best interest to hold onto him, even if he doesn’t get much of a chance this year.

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  6. David Vigneault says:

    I guess I look at things in a much simpler format. I appreciate your insight into the innings pitched. That’s great info. However, I look at simply the win / loss columns. It would appear that some of the starters they (Nats) currently have should be sent down and others (JD in particular) should be given a chance now…today! What could it hurt? The Cheifs are .500. The Nats below that. Mixing things up could send the message to the big money guys that we are willing to try things to find the right winning combination. Certainly it can’t hurt; well it could bruise a few multi-million dollar egos. If it creates wins, I’ll deal with the bumps and bruises. Bottom line is this is a business; one in which I’m not running. There are business personnel making decisions far beyond any spectator scope either of us contribute. Regardless I appreciate your insight. Needless to say…I’m a JD fan!

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    • Will says:

      There’s no doubt the Nats are a really bad team, but right now their problems do not lie in their starting rotation. The current 5 starters respective FIPs are 4.28, 3.56, 3.94, 5.25, 5.09.
      So I guess you could argue that Martis (the one with the 5.25 FIP) doesn’t deserve a spot in the starting rotation, but I suspect MartiN would post similar league average numbers.

      However, the Nationals should give a long look at using Martin in a long relief role. Their bullpen has been dreadful this year (5.53 ERA and will only go up even more after tonight), and they’ve already used 16 different relievers (yes, sixteen!) just this season. Considering this, I’m sure Martin has been given a good look, but the Nats FO feels as if Martin is best used as a starter, whenever that time may be.

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  7. Peter says:

    I think I have to agree with Will’s comments. It’s easy, especially as a Nats fan, to get frustrated with the losses and run to switch out our starting pitchers. But really I think at this point Martin fits the same description as our other starters (Zimmermann, Stammen, Detwiler, maybe Martis): young pitchers who have shown great stuff at times but who are also largely untested over the long run in the bigs.

    If your assessment is correct in that Martin would be most effective relying with a team on which he can rely for solid defense…the Nats don’t really fit that bill.

    That said I don’t think the Nats mgmt would be willing to give up a promising arm for anything short of a true center fielder with proven pop in his bat at the major league level. Not likely.

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  8. Mike says:

    Not a bad bit of analysis going on in the comments here, either. Impressive. So I’ll try to add to that. Back in the first paragraph you mean ‘heels,’ not ‘heals’. Sorry to be That Grammar Nazi Guy.

    Wait, I’m not. Nevermind.

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  9. MikeW says:

    As a season ticket holder for the Syracuse Chiefs (and yes, a correction is needed…as of 2007, due to overwhelming fan demand, they are just the CHIEFS once again…not the SkyChiefs…the Sky was tacked on to the nickname when their new stadium opened in 1997), I’ve seen all of Martin’s home starts so far (surprisingly, only 4 at home vs 8 road starts).

    I believe J.D. is flying way under the prospect radar in the IL….he’s been as impressive, if not more so, than the big name prospects who I’ve witnessed in person this season (Tommy Hanson, Chris Tillman, Michael Bowden, Carlos Carrasco, Jon Niese, Charlie Morton). Martin consistently pounds the strike zone, changes speeds effectively, has hitters off balance, works quickly, and shows outstanding poise in the few tough spots he’s been in. The only thing that could be holding the Nats back from giving him a shot (other than the plethora of other young arms they have) is that he’s coming back from TWO Tommy John surgeries in the past 3 or 4 years. However, he’s seems to be getting stronger every start, and the quality of those starts is rising right along with that (his ERA over his last 10 games is 1.96). He should be a no-brainer selection for the AAA All-Star Game, and hopefully the Nats will give him a well deserved look at some point in the second half of this season. The kid has definitely earned it.

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  10. Richard says:

    MikeW…thanks for the comments based on your having seen JD pitch several times this year. He is obviously being overlooked right now as the Nats struggle looking for answers. JD is getting stronger in every outing and he has done everything expected of a guy who should be called up and given a shot. He has clearly earned a call and if the Nats are not looking his way I am hopeful he’ll see a quick trade and given the shot he deserves!

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  11. Johnny C says:

    Great analysis of JD. Just a few comments; MikeW, JD has had only one TJ surgery, Also; it is a fact that he has hit as high as 92 on the gun and is consistant 87 to 92. The past year and a half he is 20-5 (equally) for AA & AAA with an approx. 2.40 ERA for that period. Overall career (61-30). Also very inportant; His “D” while on the mound is (.940 fld%) with 38 pick-off’s in his 700+ IP’ed. Confedant to say 3 to 4 helpful outs av. per game!!!!! I agree totally with you MikeW, JD is way under the radar and I believe needs much more Fan support and word of mouth from his supports like Mr. Vigneault. Very nice comments David….I would bet my 2nd born that JD will not disapoint, but will only inpress at the Big League level!!!! He just needs that shot, now… Good luck tonight JD

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  12. Tommy T says:

    J.D. Martin is a winner at every level of Pro Ball he has pitched. The Tommy John Surgery set him back or he would have been in the Big Leagues already. He has fought his way back, is a consistant 88 to 90 MPH on the gun, but better than that he knows how to pitch. 75% or better first pitch strikes, doesn’t walk people (7 walks in 70 innings), 52 strikeouts, ERA 2.31 and 10% or less 3 ball counts. He has good movement and good location with his pitches, fields his position and holds runners on base, because if you don’t you’ll be picked off (38 in. Pro Ball). J.D. has a lot of heart, and is a gamer. Bigger the game the bigger he pitches. All of these ingredients=Success. All he needs is a chance, that he has earned. The Nats official that gives J.D. the Big League chance (starting or relief) will become a hero in the origination. Give him the ball, he’s a winner. Good luck J.D.

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  13. K.C. says:

    J.D. will walk in the winning run for meal money. The Nats pay these guys millions to do that!!!! If J.D. Martin has a bad outing the Nats will call him up, thats there nature LOOSING. Ask Tory Lovullo (Manager of Columbus) how bad he wants J.D. Martin on his team. If he gets a shot at managing the bigs J.D. will be his ACE. The nats pay millions for these guys to just walk batters. They have signed guys right into last place and they deserve it. You know the Indians are fighting there own faces right now because they let this kid go. He is a die hard that respects the game and would do anything, Everyone else gets caught up in the @#$%*& Money. He is a hall of fame minor leaguer and someone should kick there owm @$^ for not giving him the opp. to be a hall of fame major leaguer. Forget the money, Hey lets play some BALL.

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  14. Arkansas says:

    I am impressed by the comments and the support of JD Martin. Obviously, it is well deserved. You cant teach heart or pitching well under pressure and the kid has/does both. He is a workhorse and his stats speak for themselves. If he doesn’t get a chance this year for the NATS then hopefully someone will do themselves a favor pick up the phone to get this guy. Mr. Cameron thank you for this article, hopefully it brings light to Martin and will raise a few eyebrows somewhere. Keep on supporting JD, and JD Keep on Keepin on. Attitude is Everything!!!

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  15. B Dog says:

    What I don’t understand is these so-called baseball people that talk about how hard a guy throws. Sure, JD Martin isn’t a flame thrower. But guess what, he misses a lot of bats. I rather have a guy that hits spots, doesnt walk guys, and GETS OUTS than a guy that can throw the ball to the moon but needs a damn search warrant to find the plate. Bottom line is Martin wins ball games and the guys up with the big club now don’t! Why are they up there and JD isn’t? Because Martin lost his “prospect” status when he got injured, thats why. If he was drafted by the Nationals organization and was one of their touted prospects, he would’ve been up a long time ago. He’s the victim of horseshit politics! A winning organization would have him in the bigs doing what good pitchers do, doing what JD Martin does………..GETTING PEOPLE OUT and helping his club win games! Rizzo and the whole front office is a joke!

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  16. Tim A. says:

    Tommy T. hit the nail on the head. All of the stats aside (and they just prove the point) J.D. knows –how to pitch–. He gets guys out and does it very efficiently. What strikes me most about JD is that I covered this kid when he was like 11 or 12 on a travel team in Ridgecrest, Calif. I saw him get mad once, pound the ground at first base and break his hand. He is one of the very few kids I ever saw actually -learn- from that mistake. But to see him now doing the things he is at the AAA level is just outstanding. He’ll get there eventually. Either the Nats will wise up (a 50-50 proposition) or another team will see the gem among the rocks. We’re just hoping out here in So. Calif. that its before the Nats series with the Padres in a month. :)

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  17. DRat says:

    Come on guys! Ya’ll make good baseball sense, but we’re talking “Washington” here. You know and I know that they think “upsidedown”. How else can you justify the numbers not getting a chance to succeed at the next level? All he has done, is Win. His numbers speak for themselves.

    Syracuse 2009
    Wins 8
    Loss 2
    ERA 2.25
    K 58 BB 7
    WHIP 0.89 (outstanding)
    HR/9 0.47
    I don’t understand, no “common sense” allowed..
    Keep “chuckin” JD. Best of Luck.

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  18. Johnny C says:

    Gee!! It was just announced, JD made the IL All Star team. This being the 5th all star team in his career. Congrat”s to JD, you well deserved it. He will be one of three starters representing the IL in Portland OR. on July 15th (Live on ESPN2 at 7pm) against the PCL all stars.

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  19. J.D. deserves a shot. He’s as good as their fourth and fifth starters. Let’s face it, Zimmerman and Lannan are locks and Stammen has looked promising. Gee, they promoted Tyler Clippard just recently. I don’t get it. They’re a terrible team, they’re not going anywhere. They’re 31 or 32 games below .500. J.D. deserves a shot. Good luck, J.D. I’m your Fan Club President!

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  20. StressFree says:

    Nice article and comments. Great to hear JD will be in IL AllStar game, and we can see it too! The article and comments above fail to note JD has a great breaking ball and his fasball moves too. Throwing that many effective pitches for strikes is outstanding. Looking forward to some MLB games with whichever team ends up giving JD a shot.

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  21. David Vigneault says:

    A pitching coach once told me that it’s great that I could throw hard, however I had to learn to pitch. Bottom line is that JD was drafted as a hard thrower. He now certainly knows how to pitch. Listen to a broadcast sometime. He knows all the batters. He knows his repetoire. He knows how to pitch. The Nats pitchers are struggling with “knowing how to pitch.” It’s time the FO brings JD up. Get ‘R Done!

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  22. Nick says:

    I got a card of him a few years back, of when he was drafted #1 in the supplement draft. I was wondering what happened to him, hope he gets up to the majors.

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  23. Nathaniel says:

    Great call on Martin. I agree.

    Looking through Triple-A, Doug Fister of the Mariners strikes me as basically the same sort of pitcher. Shouldn’t be get a shot as well?

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  24. Scott says:

    Well, you got your wish- J.D. Martin has been called up!

    I think the problem with promoting Martin (before now) is all they have are young, promising pitchers. Lannan, Zimmermann, Stammen, Detwiler, Martis and Mock are the guys who have been getting starts since May. Lannan is 25 years old, everybody else is younger than this. None of them make more than Lannan’s $424k. Right or wrong, the Nats have viewed all these guys as more likely to succeed long-term than Martin. And all except Mock have showed a lot of potential during their MLB starts to be strong pitchers in the future. Right now, one of the few blessings the Nationals have is a deep crop of young pitchers who appear to have the ability to succeeed in the Majors. Martin now has the opportunity to demonstrate he belongs in that conversation too. Good luck to him!

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    • Scott says:

      Sorry for the double-post, but for those who keep saying the only reason Martin hasn’t been called up is because the Nats are incompetant, or they are paying guys “millions to walk people,” this is inaccurate. The starting pitching has not been the big problem on this team. The starters are pitching well, and only Olsen is making more than $500k (and he’s been on the DL most of the last 2 months). The Nats have been paying the BULLPEN millions to walk people and give up dozens of runs per inning. The DEFENSE is full of overpaid free agents who commit more errors than routine outs and have some of the worst ranges in MLB. The starters are young, cheap players who have been developed by the Nats minor league system. If you want to move J.D. Martin to the ‘pen, go ahead and call the front office incompetant for keeping guys in MLB ahead of Martin. But if you want to see him start, he’s simply in a situation with a lot of legitamate, young, cheap and equally promising competition for MLB spots.

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      • Big Oil says:

        Beat me to it. Looking forward to watching tomorrow night’s game after the travesty that was the Cubs series.

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  25. John says:

    If his stuff is good enough to dominate AAA hitters, then he should have no problem with the Mets in his debut…… Thank you folks, I’ll be here all day.

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  26. mike m says:

    Great job looking at all the potential in this gamer. Even though he is 0-2 he has shown great promise with his ability to throw strikes. His glove has been great too. Hey Nats, lets give the kid a few runs so he can relax and do what he does best. Rack up outs! Tar Baby if your reading this give me a call.

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  27. Very good post I love your site carry on the great posts

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  28. PhD Brian says:

    Not likely he will pitch for the Nats in 2010. He did not have much in the way of decent glovemen behind him last season, so he stunk in the majors. And now the Nats think he wont succeed and are signing overpaid vets.

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  29. hey,this is Ardelia Jetter,just discovered your Post on google and i must say this blog is great.may I quote some of the article found in this web site to my local buddies?i’m not sure and what you think?in any case,Thank you!

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