Scouting Report on Phillies Prospect Ethan Martin
With today’s trade of Shane Victorino to the Dodgers for Josh Lindblom & Ethan Martin, my article on Pirates prospect Alen Hanson has been postponed until tomorrow so I can bring to our Philadelphia Phillies readers a scouting report on one of their new acquisitions. I have seen Ethan Martin pitch three times over the past year, including twice during this year’s campaign. My first look at Martin was during a 2011 game where he pitched in relief of newly acquired Marlins starter Nathan Eovaldi. Martin featured a 4 seam fastball with little to no movement, clocked in the mid 90’s, touching 97. His command was erratic and he didn’t showcase anything other than his 4 seam fastball in that appearance. To say I wanted a better look at Martin was an understatement. I was pleased to see him back in the starting rotation for the Chattanooga Lookouts to start the 2012 campaign.
My first opportunity to see Martin pitch was in May of this year. With Huntsville in town, I wanted to get a look at a few Brewers prospects. Because of a scheduling conflict, I was unable to attend Brewers prospect Tyler Thornburg’s start during the series but still wanted to a chance to scout another up-and-coming Brewer, Infielder Scooter Gennett. Outside of Gennett, the Huntsville Stars lineup was absent of any good prospects. Familiar names such as journeyman Tommy Manzella and a soon-to-be-retired Jay Gibbons helped complete the Stars lineup. Anyway, here are my impressions of Martin.
Ethan Martin struggled through 5 innings on a mid May evening, needing 102 pitches to complete 5 frames of scoreless work. Martin Walked 4 batters, struck out 5 and gave up 2 hits in his scoreless outing. The two hits Martin gave up were well struck doubles to Scooter Gennett and Jay Gibbons. The whole evening was a struggle for Martin, who lacked command throughout the evening. He threw almost exclusively fastballs, mixing in an occasional slider and a very inconsistent curveball.
Physically, Martin is a well built pitcher with little or no projection left. Listed at 6’2’’, he seems a bit smaller than that in person. He has a good base and generates a good deal of velocity from the lower half of his body, more so from the windup than the stretch. His arm strength was the best on a staff that included Zach Lee, Allen Webster, Chris Reed, Chris Withrow & Nathan Eovaldi at given times during the 2012 Lookouts season.
Martin’s fastball is a consistent mid 90s offering, touching 97. The big difference this season has been his ability to work the pitch to different parts of the plate. In the start I’m profiling, and later in a horrific start I caught of his against Jacksonville, it seemed like Martin had trouble commanding his four seam fastball. Like the 2011 relief appearance I briefly grazed over earlier, the four seam fastball was straight as an arrow. He threw it 95-96. On the other hand, Martin also featured a 2 seam fastball that he was able to command to both sides of the plate, keeping it mostly low with some late action down and in. This pitch was most effective when he threw it at 91-92 range but lived mostly in the 94-95 range with it.
Martin’s breaking pitches in either start were very inconsistent. Having talked with a scout a few weeks ago who had watched a recent Martin start, I learned that his slider had significantly improved from when I saw it. He had found consistency with the pitch, as well as an ability to throw the pitch on multiple planes, meaning he was able to generate both natural sliding actions along with some downward drop. I clocked one slider 87 MPH and another at 88. His curveball was an utter mess, consistently poor. It may have been the worst curve I’ve seen attempted this season. He did not feature one changeup in either start.
I had anticipated saving this write up for the offseason since Martin, despite being a first round pick, is not a premium prospect. Of course, today’s trade changed all of that. Going to games, scouting players and writing about baseball is mostly fun. There is a select group of pitchers who are very deliberate, a group in which Martin is a card carrying member who tend to test my patience. While he’s not the worst I’ve seen, it’s infuriating to see pitchers work without a quick rhythm. To me, it’s a confidence issue for guys like Martin and, the greatest offender of them all, Cubs Prospect Trey McNutt, who may someday inherit former Cubs pitcher Steve Trachsel’s nickname “Human Rain Delay.” While Martin is more velocity than overall stuff, a little confidence could really help him out. With his reportedly new found slider, I think Martin has a career as a major leaguer again. However, I dismiss the claim it is as a starter. While he may get some work in the Phillies rotation someday soon, like in 2013, his long term home is in the pen. With his collection of tools, I fully expect him to be a hard-throwing middle reliever or set up man.