BOSTON—In college, Kyle Martin’s identity on the mound was subjected to ongoing redefinition, particularly as a senior at Texas A&M. Entering the 2013 draft, the 6-foot-7 righthander shuttled between the rotation and bullpen, while shifting from a conventional arm slot to a sidearmer. Uneven results and inconsistent stuff were unsurprising.
Nonetheless, the Red Sox saw a big righthander who showed the ability to throw strikes with three pitches and create leverage when working from a standard arm slot. They took him in the ninth round and signed him for just a $10,000 bonus, a sum that quickly started to look like a bargain as he forged a 1.25 ERA over 36 innings in his pro debut in short-season Lowell and low Class A Greenville.
Martin’s stuff—a 92-94 mph fastball that touched 95, a slider, and one of the best changeups in the system—has led to increases at every professional level in his strikeout rate. It rose from 20.3 percent in his pro debut to a 28.8 percent in Triple-A Pawtucket in 2016, where he posted a 3.38 ERA in 66.2 innings.
Though his fastball was at times susceptible to hard contact, Martin’s ability to work the pitch up and down in the strike zone while using his slider and changeup has allowed him to unbalance opponents.
“Learning himself and his optimal pitch usage has helped a lot,” Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett said of Martin’s steadily improving strikeout rates. “Coming out of college, he had more of a bias of using his slider to righthanded hitters. Now he recognizes the changeup as a swing-and-miss weapon, particularly (in 2016).”
Martin put himself in team conversations for a callup in 2016.
That summons never came in part due to a wealth of righthanded options in the Sox’s bullpen, but Martin was an obvious add for the Sox to their 40-man roster this winter—with a far clearer path forward.
• Righthander Jamie Callahan forged a 0.75 ERA in the Arizona Fall League with 12 strikeouts and three walks in 12 innings while incorporating a cutter to complement a fastball that was up to 95 mph and a curveball.
• Lefthander Luis Ysla, added to the 40-man roster in November, produced a 1.93 ERA through 10 appearances in the Venezuelan League.