Q. Who is Russell Martin?
A. He is Mike Zunino's 50th-percentile** manifestation at age 29. Or he is Dan Wilson, if Wilson had a bit more pop and a bit less HIT skill. If Wilson had worn a size 48R blazer, had swung like Sammy Sosa and had played in New York, he'd have been Russell Martin.
In this quick series, SSI is going to get to the white meat without running through and provide evidence for each assertion. Time's a precious commodity for Dr D this week and most Gentle Readers have a feel by this time as to how many numbers or video reels there are, or aren't, behind his evaluations.
- Take it
- Leave it
Q. Why Dan Wilson as a comp?
A. Dan Wilson, as a concept, is this: Lou Piniella's fortune-cookie script when he brought Wilson over from the Reds where Lou had been. "This kid is a Number One Catcher."
- Classy, tough personality, team leader, sets a focused, selfless atmosphere
- Drop-dead gorgeous body movements behind the plate
- Measurable, and considerable, defensive contributions (legit defensive specialist)
- Pitches in with a good solid reliable 90 OPS+ offensively
- The guys standing on the mound lovva lovva lovva him - glassy-smooth rapport
For a team to want this is NOT merely an affectation. If you heavily value defense at SS and CF, as you should, then you should value it at least as much at catcher. The catcher is part of each pitcher-catcher team on the ballclub.
Q. Why Mike Zunino as a comp?
A. Zunino has upside at the plate; he could easily be a 110 or 120 OPS+ hitter, or who knows what he could be. But just out of AA, you've got to objectively pencil him in as less than that. Hoping for more.
What makes Zunino special is that he is fun to watch behind the plate. Dan Wilson really wasn't; Ivan Rodriguez was. Zunino is like Pudge -- you could watch a game just to enjoy Zunino's ballet behind the plate.
Russell Martin is also fun to watch behind the plate. For example, here is a video where he guns down Anthony Gose at 3B: watch the footwork.
- Aiki-precise in foot placement, spread of feet, under the hips, etc
- Martin looks like he weighs 150 lbs hopping out of his crouch
- Throwing stroke is to die for
- Throw itself, yowza
You could watch that video 20 times. Zunino's like this, too.
Or here's a vid in which Martin does the same thing at second base, the longer throw. Look at how accurate the footwork is, how effortless it is. The throw stays low, arrives wellllll over to 1B ... it's less of a catcher's throw and more of a personal statement, 007. You run on me and you'll be out by THREE steps.
We don't mean to make Martin out to be Pudge Rodriguez; he's not. But he's a pleasure to watch back there. Same as Dan Wilson.
Q. So Martin is a defensive specialist? Or an extreme defensive specialist?
A. It's unclear.
Or here's a vid of Martin stealing a strike for CC Sabathia. Don't fail to click on that link, brother. Martin has been #1 in the American League, both 2011 and 2012, for runs saved by stealing strikes -- an estimated 20+ runs per season in strike-stealing alone.
If the numbers held up -- and who knows whether Martin's getting the strikes or the Yankees are -- then Martin would be literally worth his salary in pitch framing alone.
There isn't ANY way to capture the defensive contributions of catchers. But Martin is definitely a plus defensive catcher, and what would Brendan Ryan be worth if he hit .240 with 20 home runs?
** - I know, I know. Strictly speaking, there's almost no such thing as a AA player whose 50th-percentile projection is to be a borderline All-Star.