Leonys Martin is swinging for the fences

In most leagues, Leonys Martin went undrafted, and for good reason. Martin had a career year in 2016 where he hit 15 home runs and stole 24 bases. Last year was a season to forget as he was demoted to Triple-A and finished the season below the Mendoza Line. Now we’re in May and he already has better numbers than he did last year. The Detroit Tigers new leadoff man has changed his approach and is hitting better than he ever has in the big leagues. Are these changes real and can he keep this up? Let’s dive into the season numbers.

Season Team PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% AVG OBP
2013 TEX 508 8 66 49 36 5.5 20.5 .260 .313
2014 TEX 583 7 68 40 31 6.7 19.6 .274 .325
2015 TEX 310 5 26 25 14 5.2 22.3 .219 .264
2016 SEA 576 15 72 47 24 7.6 25.9 .247 .306
2017 SEA (AAA) 388 11 63 39 25 5.4 22.9 .306 .346
2017 SEA/CHC 138 3 14 9 7 5.8 23.9 .172 .232
2018 DET 105 4 18 12 1 7.6 19.0 .271 .333

I began in 2013 where he started to make his mark. He clearly has a lot of speed, but is starting to bring more pop into his game. This year his walk rate has increased back to what we saw in 2016 and his strikeout rate has decreased. Also his average and OBP are great and trending in the right direction. He sure is making last season a thing of the past. Before we dive into his home run spike, let’s check the plate discipline to see if there are any changes to support this.

Season Team O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Swing%
2013  TEX 35.9 62.6 47.6 65.8 88.0 78.6 10.2
2014 TEX 36.8 67.4 49.8 65.7 89.3 79.3 10.3
2015 TEX 32.1 62.5 45.6 55.8 85.7 74.0 11.8
2016 SEA 32.9 68.8 49.2 56.0 81.2 72.0 13.8
2017 SEA/CHC 33.0 70.3 50.3 59.8 82.4 74.4 12.8
2018 DET 30.0 77.8 50.0 64.3 86.9 79.0 10.5

Martin is swinging at pitches outside the zone a tiny bit less and he’s swinging more inside the zone than ever before. Other good things are his contact rate has increased and his swinging strike rate has decreased. Maybe this is why his average is higher than it has been in the last three years. Let’s check out his batted profile to see if we can get a reason for his home runs.

Season Team GB/FB LD% GB% FB% IFFB HR/FB IFH Pull Cent Opp Soft Med Hard
2013 TEX 1.81 21.0 50.9 28.1 16.8 8.4 7.0 39.4 36.4 24.2 22.0 53.5 24.5
2014 TEX 1.81 21.9 50.3 27.8 12.8 6.4 8.6 42.3 34.6 23.1 20.3 53.7 25.9
2015 TEX 1.57 15.3 51.7 33.0 10.1 7.2 2.8 43.0 35.9 21.1 23.8 52.9 23.3
2016 SEA 1.17 19.9 43.2 36.8 11.3 11.3 7.1 45.8 31.3 22.9 22.1 48.4 29.5
2017 SEA/CHC 1.17 14.6 46.1 39.3 5.7 8.6 4.9 45.3 30.5 24.2 20.0 54.7 25.3
2018 DET 0.45 16.4 26.0 57.5 7.1 9.5 21.1 36.8 27.6 35.5 23.7 44.7 31.6

Right off the bat he’s hitting a lot of fly balls. To put that in perspective, he ranks second among qualified hitters in fly ball percentage. He is spraying the ball to both sides of the fields at almost equal rates – a big change from past years. It will be interesting if he keeps hitting to the opposite side of the field with that much regularity. To dig a little deeper we will look at the Statcast numbers from Baseball Savant. Statcast shows that Martin has an xAVG of .290 and an xSLG of 0.617 which tells us so far the power is for real. Another great stat that supports his power surge is his average launch angle which has increased from 9.9° last season to 20.2° this season.

Leonys Martin has a new approach and it’s hit fly balls. Such a drastic change can be very tough to keep up. The league will adjust and it will be interesting to see how long he can keep it up for. We’ve seen many players join the Fly Ball Revolution only to sacrifice their average for the homers. As of right now he is owned in 13% of Yahoo leagues so if you have a spot to stream you should ride him until he cools off. The power is real and the breakout is happening right before our eyes.

 

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