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Rangers Look To Leonys Martin To Fill Opening In Outfield

By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports

CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.

Leonys Martin, Outfielder, Texas Rangers

2012 season: 24 G, 46 AB, .174 BA, 0 HR, 3 SB, .605 OPS

There’s a lot of hype in Texas about the next big prospects around the corner. Everybody’s heard of Jurickson Profar and is looking to see how the Rangers will make room for him in their crowded infield. There’s also third baseman/outfielder Mike Olt, who might get some time in the bigs if Nelson Cruz is suspended for his alleged involvement with Biogensis and performance-enhancing drugs.

And then there’s Leonys Martin – a player getting much less fanfare than the other two, but one who is much more likely to be in the Rangers’ Opening Day lineup. A Cuban defector, Martin signed with the Rangers for a five-year, $15.5 million contract in May of 2011. He’s spent most of his time in the minor leagues since then, showing the type of all-around game that helped him earn that payday. In 55 games at Triple-A last year, the outfielder hit .359 with 12 homers, 10 steals and a 1.033 OPS. Those are strong numbers that would get him more attention if he were in an organization without a farm system as loaded as Texas’.

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That’s not to say there aren’t holes in Martin’s game, however. First, it’s worth noting that the Pacific Coast League, where he played in the minors last year, tends to be an offensive haven that skews batters’ numbers favorably. He also got caught stealing nine times in 19 attempts and could stand to walk a little more.

Some metrics say Martin’s defense was sub-par in the Majors last year, but that’s likely just a product of small sample size and the noise inherent in defensive statistics. Scouts have long praised him as an extremely talented center fielder, to the point that it’s the least questionable part of his game.

Now at 25 years old, Martin has to deal with an unenviable burden: replacing Josh Hamilton in the Rangers’ lineup. Luckily, the Rangers are brimming with talent elsewhere on the roster, so he won’t be expected to come in and be a savior. He also might split time with speedster Craig Gentry at first, which will help ease him into a regular role in the big leagues. At his best, Martin could be a five-tool star who makes Rangers fans glad that the team didn’t waste resources on re-signing Hamilton. Even if he doesn’t quite hit that ceiling, though, he will still be a strong defender who will outperform many other bottom-of-the-order hitters around the league.

Next up on March 13: Oakland Athletics

More 30 Players, 30 Days HERE

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