- Full name John Dale Martin
- Born 01/02/1983 in Ridgecrest, CA
- Profile Ht.: 6'4" / Wt.: 220 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Burroughs
- Debut 07/20/2009
Drafted in the C round (35th overall) by the Cleveland Guardians in 2001 (signed for $975,000).
View Draft ReportFew players made more strides this year than this slight righthander, who dominated with a 9-1, 0.24 record, 111 strikeouts and 11 walks in 59 innings. In one five-inning outing, all 15 outs were strikeouts. His polish and command of four pitches are rarely seen in a high school pitcher and had scouts comparing Martin to a young Greg Maddux. Martin isn't overpowering, as his fastball registered only 87-89 mph and peaked at 91-92, but the pitch has Kevin Brown-like sinking action. The best may be yet to come for the 6-foot-4, 160-pound Martin, who projects to add another two inches and 50 pounds as he matures.
Organization Prospect Rankings
Martin was one of three high school pitchers the Indians took in the first and supplemental first rounds of the 2001 draft, and despite a now-lengthy medical history, he represents Cleveland's best hope among the trio. Dan Denham has had little success in the upper minors, while the Tribe failed to sign Alan Horne, who's now in the Yankees system. Martin was shut down in 2003 with a strained elbow ligament and initially avoided surgery, but he needed to have his elbow reconstructed after opening 2005 with a dominant 10-start stretch in Double-A. Martin didn't return until mid-June 2006, and when he did, several club officials said he was more of a complete pitcher than he was before he had Tommy John surgery. Martin jumped to Kinston for its Carolina League stretch run, piggybacking starts with lefthander Scott Lewis and helping the K-Tribe to their second championship in three years. He made two more appearances out of the pen in the Eastern League playoffs, allowing just two hits and striking out six in six innings. Martin's fastball velocity is back in the 90-91 mph range. While many pitchers have control issues when they return from Tommy John surgery, Martin showed excellent command of his cutter, 12-to-6 curveball, slider and changeup in his return. The Indians attribute Martin's resurgence to the better body awareness he learned during his rehab. Martin will be monitored closely in his return to Double- A this year and could move quickly if he proves healthy.
The Indians had four picks before the second round of the 2001 draft and spent the first three on pitchers. Dan Denham has been inconsistent and Alan Horne didn't sign, and while Martin has been the best thus far, elbow problems have delayed his progress. He went 24-9 in his first two-plus seasons before being shut down in July 2003 with a strained ligament. He avoided surgery at that point and finished strong in 2004, only to further hurt his elbow and require Tommy John surgery last July. Martin's arsenal improved significantly over the last two years. He throws two- and four-seam fastballs, a cutter, a changeup and a curveball that has ranked as the best in the system for a while. As good as his true 12-6 curveball is, his cutter has developed into his best weapon. Lean and wiry, Martin could add more velocity to his 89-91 mph fastball if he can add more weight on his frame. Durability and stamina always have clouded Martin's projection, and those concerns were only magnified after surgery. After his rehabilitation, he'll begin the season in extended spring training and is scheduled to join Mahoning Valley when camp breaks in June.
Though Martin got off to the fastest start of any pitcher in Cleveland's arm-rich 2001 draft, since then he only has flashed the potential he showed in his debut. He strained an elbow ligament in 2003 but was able to avoid surgery. Getting an emergency start last July at Triple-A Buffalo boosted his confidence, as he went 3-2, 2.98 in his final seven regular-season starts at Kinston afterward. He ended his season by locking up the Carolina League championship with a dominant 10-strikeout performance against Wilmington. Martin improved his arsenal last year, working off two- and four-seam fastballs with good movement in the 89-91 mph range, but he's still more projectable than overpowering. His best pitch is a curveball that ranks as the best in the system. He has developed a cutter and also throws a decent changeup. Martin will spend 2005 in Double-A.
Martin got off to a faster start than any of the pitchers in the Tribe's 2001 draft, including Dan Denham and Travis Foley, by posting a 1.38 ERA in his pro debut and winning 14 games in his first full season. But he also had the most disappointing 2003 season of that group because he was shut down in late July with a strained elbow ligament. The good news was that Martin avoided surgery and should be fine after an offseason of rest and rehabilitation. His strong suits are his command and feel for changing speeds. His 87-89 mph fastball isn't overpowering, but he locates it well and does the same with his overhand curveball, slider and changeup. Lean and wiry, he has room on his frame to add velocity, but that hasn't happened for him. Durability and stamina always have been issues for Martin, who has worked hard to add eight pounds to his frame since signing. Expected to be 100 percent by the start of spring training, Martin will rejoin fellow 2001 first-rounder Dan Denham in the high Class A rotation.
After the Indians made him a supplemental first-round pick, Martin exploded on the pro scene with eye-catching numbers (1.38 ERA, 71-11 strikeout-walk ratio) at Rookie-level Burlington. He wasn't as dominant in his first full season, though he won 14 games to lead a talented Columbus staff. He has outstanding command of all his pitches, which include an 87-88 mph fastball, a changeup, an overhand curve and a big, sweeping slider. Martin showed an intuitive feel for pitching that was remarkable for a teenager. Unlike many young pitchers, he has to be encouraged to throw his fastball more. He used it just half of the time during some games last year, and Cleveland wants him to up that mark to 65-70 percent. The gangly Martin had some stamina problems, which caused his velocity to drop at mid-season. But he eventually gained a second wind and the velocity returned near the end of the season. He needs to get stronger in order to at least maintain his velocity on his fastball. He'll move up a level to high Class A in 2003.
It didn't take long for the Indians to realize they had something special in Martin. In his fourth pro start, Martin pitched five hitless innings, striking out 14 of the 16 batters he faced. "That's a line you don't ever see," former Tribe GM John Hart said. "That's like something out of Bruno's Groceries, in Little League.'' Some scouts say they've never seen an 18-year-old command both sides of the plate with his fastball the way Martin does. The pitch also has tremendous sink. He also has the ability to throw a changeup for strikes on three-ball counts that also leaves observers shaking their heads. His slider has a late, hard break. He has a tremendous feel for pitching. Martin needs to get a lot stronger, but he has a very projectable frame and should be able to do so as his body naturally matures. The velocity on his fastball is slightly below average at 87-89 mph, but it should pick up as he physically develops. Because of their status as high school first-round picks from the same draft, Martin and Dan Denham likely will climb the minor league ladder together. This year they could comprise a devastating one-two punch in low Class A.
Minor League Top Prospects
No pitcher, including Ankiel, experienced as much success in the Appy League as Martin. The 35th overall pick in this year's draft didn't allow a hit in three of his first six starts, including a five-inning, 14-strikeout effort in his fourth outing. Martin was the most polished pitcher in the league, thanks in large part to the coaching efforts of his father John, who pitched in the Yankees and Angels farm systems in the 1960s and 1970s. Martin has a great changeup and outstanding command of five pitches. He throws his changeup and breaking pitches at any time in the count, a trait that kept opposing hitters off balance all summer. "He's a kid who can pitch right now, in terms of his knowledge of the game and his ability to pitch," Johnson City manager Chris Maloney said. "He's just going to get bigger and stronger and quicker. He really has a feel for pitching." The lone knock against Martin is that his fastball has below-average velocity. Most managers agreed, however, that he would top 90 mph once his body fills out.
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Control in the International League in 2009
- Rated Best Curveball in the Cleveland Guardians in 2006
- Rated Best Curveball in the Cleveland Guardians in 2005