When Leonys Martin was acquired, he was brought into improve the outfield’s defense and add some speed at the bottom of the line-up. The Cuban center fielder has been excellent defensively, while absolutely crushing the ball.
Martin is hitting .231/.315./.454, while crushing eight home runs in 147 plate appearances in 39 games this season — he hit eight in 2013 with the Rangers, in 508 PAs. He’s increased his home run total by putting the ball into the air more (45.1% of his batted balls are fly balls), and nearly 19% of his fly balls are turning into home runs. Because of the fact that such a large percentage of his fly balls are turning into dingers, it’s likely that Martin could continue to mash the ball throughout the remainder of the season.
The center fielder’s surprising power (ISO .223), plus his increased walk rate, has led to a slightly above average wRC+ of 104. All of this means that Martin has been able to lengthen the Mariners’ line-up and increase the chances that the team is able to put up the big innings.
So what’s causing Martin’s power surge?
Martin has reduced the number of pitches he’s been swinging at outside of the strike zone, seven points less, than he did last season; which has led to an increase in his walk percentage, he’s walked in 10.6% of his plate appearances in 2016. As a result, he’s been seeing more pitches inside the strike zone this season (45.7% according to Baseball Info Solutions), which has led to better pitches for Martin to hit. And he’s been absolutely crushing the ball so far this season.
It’s been a long time since the Mariners have had at least a league average bat (with exceptional defense) out in center field; all of that means that Martin has already been worth one win in 2016 (that’s insane), and is an extremely valuable part of his teams hot start.