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American League Outfield Player Watch: Leonys Martin

Over the past 30 days Leonys Martin has a .367 wOBA, thanks to a .301/.363/.479 line. Yes, his .365 BABIP over the past month has helped, but even Martin’s seasonal line of .289/.340/.457 is nothing to scoff at. This may be the year that the Cuban defector posts his breakout season.

After yesterday’s two home run performance, Martin now has five home runs on the year — along with 6 doubles and four triples. He’s only recorded 15 RBIs thus far, as hitting primarily 8th and 9th will have an adverse effect on ones RBI numbers, despite the extra-base hits. For fellow total base league players, Martin’s speed has translated nicely once he puts the ball is in play. Doubles and triples might not thrill the average 5x5er, they are joy in formats that count total bases. Just because he may not be driving others doesn’t mean that his hitting has been squandered. Martin’s 28 runs scored are tied for fifth on the Texas Rangers, despite the fact that he is ninth on the team in terms of plate appearances with just 191. The mostly unseen (for fantasy purposes) power of doubles and triples can sometimes show up in the form of runs scored.

Martin’s speed on the bases has taken new shape in the form of steals this year. Now up to 12 steals — and having only been caught twice — after posting 13 all of last year, Martin’s 5×5 value is looking stronger by the day. His walk rate, though slightly low, is livable at 6.3% and his BABIP should be strong enough to give him something in the neighborhood of a .330 on-base percentage. Not ideal from an outfielder, but fine when his steals and runs are factored in.

Both ZiPS and Steamer seem a bit cautious on his counting numbers, though his RoS rate stats seem to be in line. If Martin finishes the season with less than 15 home runs and 25 steals, call me surprised. Given Martin’s skills, the lineup around him, and the park that he calls home, he should post very solid numbers. The home runs may be optimistic, though as the weather continues to warms up, the ball will carry much more out of all parks, but especially The Ballpark in Arlington. If some of his doubles begin clearing the fence and turning into home runs, even better.

Some may wonder about playing time once Craig Gentry returns from the disabled list, and given that Gentry was the starting center fielder that seems like a reasonable thought. That being said, Gentry should not be blocking Martin for long, and maybe not at all given Martin’s numbers to date. It will be about two weeks before Gentry can swing a bat again, giving plenty of time and PA’s to Martin. A separate yet relevant situation is for all we know,  in two weeks time Nelson Cruz could be suspended (though that is an entirely different article). The club is moving forward as if Nelson won’t be, but if Cruz did wind up being suspended, there would be room in the outfield for both Gentry and Martin.

Right now Martin is getting playing time and making the most of it. You can pick up Martin in 47% of CBS leagues, 73% of ESPN leagues, and 89% of Yahoo! formats. Act fast, as his hitting is worthy of a roster spot alone, and if MLB steps in and suspends Cruz, Martin’s ownership rate will skyrocket.