A little pat on the back for myself for writing this back in December the day after Martin was signed:
He's a former #1 pick of the Indians who had Tommy John surgery in 2005. He finally had a fully healthy season in 2008 and posted a 2.49 ERA in 79.2 IP in AA and a 1.80 ERA in 10 IP at AAA. Even prettier were his 4:1 strikeout to walk ratios.That K:BB ratio this season has improved to a fabulous 6.30. He's got a 2.66 ERA, which translates to a major-league equivalent of 3.42.
After being rumored as a potential rule 5 pick, he signed as a free agent with the Nationals because, he said, we give him the best chance to make it to the bigs. His best pitches are a curve and a cutter. He also throws a sinker and a four-seamer. His fastball sits in the 89-90 range. He'll be 26 this season and should be considered a dark horse candidate for the rotation or bullpen.
If you want to read more about him, check out the excellent Indians Prospect Insider blog.
FJB bottom-line: two thumbs up.
He's been wicked lucky on his home runs per flyball rate, which at 3.5% is about one-third what it will ultimately regress to. And his BABIP against sits at .277, which is about 30 points below what he should expect over time. On the other hand, he's stranded only 66% of runners, which is about 10-15 points lowe than it should be.
Add up all that good and bad luck, and he deserves an ERA around 3.40 at Syracuse, according to tRA*. That would translate to about 4.50 in the big leagues. That's league-average, and worth consideration for a spot in the rotation regardless of injuries.
And although you might not have heard of him, this is not a totally unpredicted development. PECOTA, historically the most accurate projection system for pitchers, pegged him at 3.90 in 30 innings this year.
Of course all this statistical projection doesn't mean squat if he can't make it happen when facing actual major league hitters. And there are plenty of guys out there who can get out AAA hitters but lack the raw stuff to do it at the next level.
Still, J.D. Martin is a great story, and it'll be a lot more fun to find out if he can do it than to gather more evidence that Scott Olsen can't.