Russell Martin Scouting Report - Comps
The Dan Wilson concept


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.  

  1. Take it
  2. 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.



I have to wonder what a grizzled vet like Martin could do for our pitching staff... especially the ones most have given up on already like Noesi, Beavan and Vargas.
If these guys could be coached on the field during at bats, and then get a couple of extra strikes that they have never gotten before... who knows we all could become Noesi fans.


In defense of your point, this has been tried before and in that short trial, the outcome was "Yes."
As you think about it .... Zduriencik invested a whale of a lot in Hector Noesi (apparently rejecting Nova for him) and when an executive commits to a project and sees it fouled up, he's going to be ticked.
You wonder how much Noesi's situation specifically has led Jay-Z to decide to ---> clean house behind the plate.  Not saying it's correct or incorrect, but am saying that if I were reporting to Zduriencik, I would PRESUME that the Noesi foulup had been a big reason behind the cleaning house.

tjm's picture

It seems clear they've made a decision to get a new catcher which means somebody has to go. Jaso is the only lefty in the entire group so you'd think he'd be a sure thing to stay, especially since he was not incidentally the team's best hitter and one of its best baserunners. That leaves Montero and Zunino and I sincerely doubt they'd move Zunino, which leaves you with the question: What is Montero worth?
Last year, when he was judged to be a future MOTO bat with no position he was worth one of the best young righthanders in baseball. Is he worth more or less now? The consensus judgement seems to be that he is worth less.I don't really understand why. I simply don't buy the repeated asseertion from other sites that Montero failed as a hitter. I thought for a young catcher in his first full season he hit remarkably well - killed lefties and improved as the season went on against righties. Montero and one of the Big 3.5 would get you what?
Of course, it doesn't matter at all what I think or even what Jack thinks. It matters what other GM's think and by now Jack would know the answer to that. Seems to me he wouldn't be pursuing another catcher so vigorously if he didn't think he could make a good deal on Montero either now or by mid-year when Zunino has had another few months in the high minors.


But wasn't that the point of Olivo? And didn't that fail miserably? And isn't Napoli only nominally a catcher, like Montero or Jaso?
Now, Russell has volunteered to play SHORTSTOP for the Canadian WBC team, and his pitchers seem to really appreciate him as a receiver, so he has the athleticism and receiving skills going for him - but again, I thought that was what Zunino was for. You don't draft Tim Lincecum then block him off with a bunch of Vargases, do you? Or trade your best young pitcher for a catcher/DH who is a top-10 prospect in all of baseball, then block him off at both catcher and DH?
And Martin's RH, just like Montero and Zunino and Napoli. I know we're "fixing" the park, but that doesn't help us with matchups if all our MOTO guys are right-handed hitters.
*shakes head* I'm just not sure what we're doing right now. I understand Napoli better than Martin, unless Zunino is being traded - and we can't trade him til mid-year since he was just drafted.
I just can't see enough of the plan right now. The problem is, the other offseasons when I've said that (ie, all of them) it hasn't been a plan I liked or appreciated in any meaningful way when it was over. So this is not encouraging.
Maybe Montero is moving to first base. Maybe Zunino's being held back/stalled. Maybe there's a trade that will make sense of this, or we're putting the 2013 season completely in the hands of the young arms. If we're gonna run Paxton, Erasmo and Hultzen out there in April, perhaps Martin is the key to getting them all to land on their feet.
That, for me, is the most likely reason for a Martin acquisition - no more stalling on the young arms. If Walker's ready, then he's taking the mound. Perhaps Oakland's rookie hurlers inspired us not to dip a toe in that water but cannonball in.
And they don't want to put those guys in the tender care of Zunino and Montero.
But if Zunino and Montero are two cornerstones of your future pennant winners... how are you maximizing their talents?
Like I said, still confused about the 2013 formula for success we're trying to work out on the blackboard. Hope to be enlightened soon.


I'm becoming quite confused about the way (it seems) our FA pursuits are going.
Napoli, as a homer hitting DH makes some sense, I was in.....but not as a long-term catching addition.
And with Zunino banging on the door and other serviceable catchers in-house a Martin pursuit confuses me, mostly for what it says about our Zunino plans. Montero and Jaso had their moments behind the plate last year. Each caught stellar pitching games. they held their own. Their CERA (if that is of any value) was as good as Olivo's, who is supposed to be a defensive stalwart. But evidently, we've completely decided that they can't catch.
Perhaps we have a deal on the table that includes Montero. Or perhaps Montero is becoming a fulltime 1B/DH and Smoak is gone. Maybe we want Martin to tutor our young starters. But my head is beginning to spin with all of our new catcher infatuation.
Two years of Martin means Zunino shows up in late 2014! Three years of Martin and Zunino become expendable. Both of those decisions confuse me as Zunino applears to be close to ready...but it now appears that Wedge (I think that's who is deciding on catchers) think he needs tons of Tacoma time to be a MLB catcher. Wedge has certain things he wants in his catchers: Veteran status is one of them.
Doc, James may have been right when he said that the best clubs seek proven talent. I'll buy in to a degree, but sometimes you go with the guy who is young and talented. You have to on the best of them. It only took the Yankees 85 AAA games to decide that Cano was their 2B of the future. The first 61 ('04) of those he hit all of .259.
Yet despite that, he was clearly in line for the quick callup the next year. 25 games more was enough in '05.
I'm a believer in putting youthful talent on the field. The NFL starts 21-22 year old rookie QB's. The NBA starts 20 year old rookie point guards. Yet in baseball, a 21 yr old is still (most often) 2-3 years away from being "polished" enough.
If Zunino has got game....and a future, then Seattle (sooner rather than later) is the place for him. Signing Martin doesn't allow him to grow, it probably sets back his development. I suppose that it is possible that we've decided that Zunino isn't the catcher of the future...which means that Z took a nose dive on that draft pick.
maybe all we're hearing in unsubstantiated rumors and all is actually quiet and calm in the Z camp. It doesn't appear to be, however. That scares and confuses me.
I'll trust there is method to the (perceived) madness. However, a mashing platoon of Montero/Jaso makes up for some pitch framing issues, if they exist. Perhaps Martin signing means those two guys are a DH platoon? Hmmmmmm? Interesting, that.
But then there's the Zunino thing.

M-Pops's picture

C has to be the most demanding position on the team. How does it hurt to have 3 legit C's rotating through C/DH? In case of injury, you're covered. Also, if fewer innings behind the plate=better health, does it not make sense to protect the health of the cornerstone players in Montero and Zunino (possibly Jaso, who I quite like)?
Montero, Jaso, and Martin/Napoli could handle sharing DH and C. And they may not really have to, depending on injuries. And I like the idea of players earning more AB's. It always seems to work for those befuddlingly competetive A's, who added yet another OFer this offseason!
Both Martin and Naps are familiar with the AL, and could take the pressure off both our young cornerstone C's.
I like it ;-)


I don't think there is any mystery here. They've decided that Montero has no future at C. They've decided that Jaso isn't more than a platoon partner at C. Zunino looks good but you can't plan around a guy with a couple dozen games above A ball. So, they've decided that they need to sign a catcher.
Shrug. I would prefer Martin over Napoli, simply because he'll age better and be easier to trade once Zunino is ready. Just because they ink a guy for 3-4 years doesn't necessarily mean he'll be here for the duration of the contract. (Unless, of course, the guy sucks and becomes an untradeable "Figgins" type of player.)

Lonnie of MC's picture

... that shows me blowing chips? There is no way that Hector Noesi will EVER become useful on a MLB mound.*
* I reserve the right to be wrong every once in a while...

Lonnie of MC's picture

... that any and all talks with vet catchers include language to the extent that they can expect to hit quite a bit as the DH AND there is a possibility of moving to 1st base. I'm willing to bet a lot of Jeff's money on that.


I just can't see the Martin deal as a real likelihood. Maybe we sniffed, maybe as due diligence, maybe as a GM-ish ploy; I don't know. But 4 years of Martin, with the steal of the draft in the hopper, doesn't make sense.
Our problem last year was not that we didn't have enough catching ability. If we're spending $9-$10M on a FA, we're getting a bat, there was the problem.
Martin's a very nice player, don't get me wrong, but I just don't think he's the guy on our radar screen.
Edit: Just read Dave Cameron's USSM post. He's heading down this same track. I actually agree with DC. Doesn't happen all that frequently.

ghost's picture

There's no way Zunino limits himself to hitting .235...and you can't claim thatn Martin is secretly a better hitter than that...his HIT skill and K rate have been heading the wrong way for the last several years running.


"We're looking at FA catchers, including you, so that means we'll let you catch some. We want you but we're willing to sign someone else. And 4 years isn't scaring us off. Come play here..."
That makes sense - but only if you can get Napoli to ink. Napoli has a bat that can play at DH, Martin doesn't. If we sign Napoli, then Montero can play 1B (or be traded), Jaso is a platoon bat who can get play at both C and DH, and Napoli can C/DH til Zunino gets here when he'll slide over to more of a full-time DH. That means Smoak and Carp are out, and Right-ifies our lineup to a significant degree (hope that fence-moving thing helps).
Signing Martin blocks off Zunino who might be your most talented minor league hitter (although he can't be traded til mid-year), doesn't solve the need for a real hitter at DH (unless we're going with Montero there, at a position he hit terribly at in 2012), and ties up funds you might use to sign said real hitter. And it still rightifies the lineup a bit. It COULD work, if we turn Zunino around for something shiny, but why draft a young cheap hitter, hit the apparent jackpot immediately, and then move the club-controlled wunderkind out because you've blocked him off?
I guess we could move Zunino to the OF a la Bryce Harper, but Harper was always an iffy catcher, more Montero-like than Zunino has been. Zunino's a true catcher. We could deploy him elsewhere.. but why? Why make this harder on ourselves?
Just makes me think Martin has to be a ploy, to show we're serious about stalling Zunino a while longer should Napoli require catching duties the next year or whatever in order to ink his name to the line. If we get Napoli, it worked! And we'll figure out the Zunino thing. If we don't get Napoli, I don't expect the Martin thing to go anywhere.


Montero, Jaso, and Martin/Napoli could handle sharing DH and C, but that sets up a situation where you would have potentially three of the best hitters on your team but only be able to play two at at time. Just seems like an inefficient use of resources.

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Chat: 7/31/15 11:03am
Interests: International Wild News (202399)
    Shouts update every 10 seconds.       
2015-08-02 08:55

Very convenient.. for sure. If the team pitched well they hit bad, if they hut well they pitched bad..and then sometimes pit hing and batting were both well and they threw in some serious errors defensively and #Wild pitches to get other Ls. Amazingly unlucky and unproductive year

2015-08-02 08:27

You're right OBF, #Montgomery pitched well. It's uncanny this year how often the offense scores just enough to lose whether the pitching performs well or badly. When we hit, the pitching fails. When the pitching is good, the offense fails.

2015-08-01 19:39

Now that we are playing for a good draft position... I am not that upset about that loss... It was good to see #Montgomery have a good outing. 2nd and 3rd no outs producing no runs was pretty annoying, but as DaddyO says, very representative...

2015-08-01 19:28

This was truly a representative game of the 2015 #Seattle Mariners.

2015-08-01 19:28

And there you have it.. awful. Wonder when the #News is going tk.come down.. Lloyd out as M's head, I can see it now. Don't wanna put all this on him.. but he has no fire in my eyes and is one foot out the door. Let's get things moving and give some people the axe. End rant.

2015-08-01 19:23

Nothing like another #Wild pitch that can cost us a game. Like a week before break we lost on #Wild pitch.. awful. Not many teams losing on #Wild pitches twice in a months worth of games

2015-08-01 19:21

Nomproblem. It's truly magical.. the stories he tells the calm cool delivery. Never know what you are going to get. Kind of like this game

2015-08-01 17:37

Ah, got it. Thanks for clarifying, Browns. For me it truly was a privilege.

2015-08-01 17:10

Oh daddyo.. I honestly mean it in the best way when I say can put me to.sleep. guy really is remarkable. I can only imagine hearing him then

2015-08-01 14:33

Zobrist with 2 HR's and a 2B today, including a blast off of Mark Low, who gives up 3 in the 8th and gets the loss for #Toronto. KC gets their return on the Zobrist investment in a hurry!

2015-08-01 13:19

Scully now is only a shell of his younger self. You wouldn't have fallen asleep listening to him in the sixties, seventies and eighties.

2015-08-01 13:19

Blue Jays designate Danny #Valencia in a weird move. He's a 3B/COF/1B with a career average of .326-.368-.497 vL! 64 xB's in 586 vL AB's. Munenori #Kawasaki gets the call up? Heck, #Valencia's vL bat is what we hope Montero's is!

2015-08-01 12:38

I don't think anyone will reach the like of Vin Scully.. guy can put me to sleep, but I say thatbwithbthe utmost respect. It's awesome listening to him. I do enjoy Goldsmith

2015-08-01 09:54

I like Goldsmith. I don't know much about him but he sounds like he comes from that Midwest school of baseball announcers, which I like.

2015-08-01 03:45

Aaron Goldsmith is probably my favorite M's media guy along with Joe Simpson ...

2015-08-01 03:45

Way easier to see the pitches ... it's form over function; the angled view provides a nice aesthetic balance to the three players ... somehow the view in #Minnesota looks fairly appealing also. Not sure how they do it

2015-08-01 00:04

I wish the Mariners would also use the straight on CF camera like the Twins feed. So much easier to digest and analyze pitches.

2015-07-31 22:42

"Of course they're relaxed. The season is over"

Yes, I think that's exactly right.
The quote that stuck out in my head most from over the winter was Lloyd's when he was repeatedly asked if he agreed the team would win even more than last year's 87. And he kept saying, "you don't start with 87--you start with zero."
So I give him credit for trying to dampen expectations. But I think the team didn't agree.

Maybe if we had started 8 and 5 rather than 5 and 8 they could have relaxed from the start. But they've been pressing throughout.

2015-07-31 22:25

Clean shaven Ackley 0 for 2 with a couple of groundouts. Not fixed yet.

Reply - IcebreakerX - 8/1/15 5:05am
I would bet the Yanks will probably watch for a few days and then tell him to just focus on hard contact or pulling the ball or some stupid simple thing. Boom, .280/.340/.435. And everyone says, "why do they get better when they leave???".
2015-07-31 21:12

I wonder if the M's can get LoMo through waivers.

2015-07-31 21:06

I like the Blowers-Goldsmith combo.

2015-07-31 20:58

Iwakuma can be QO'd.

Morosi back in Feb:
@jonmorosi: So while Yoenis Cespedes is NOT eligible for a QO, Hisashi Iwakuma is. (Both will be free agents next offseason with 4 years of service.)

Cameron and others have confirmed he can be offered but Ms likely think an extension can be had cheaper.

2015-07-31 19:47

Good day in Seatle. Big W for M's.. Russell signs extension. Chancellor and Wagner being courted... then you got Bennett feeling salty, but hey..these things happen. Overall 12th man and king's court feeling good today.

2015-07-31 19:42

Of course they're relaxed. The season is over

2015-07-31 19:41

So far tonight Flores is 2-3 with a 2B in his Tacoma debut.

2015-07-31 19:41

you are not alone
I blame Happ and Ackley

2015-07-31 19:26

Is it just me, or does this seem like the first time all year they've looked relaxed?

2015-07-31 19:22

To me it looks like Montero has put on a FEW pounds. Glad to see him up and hitting, though.

2015-07-31 18:48

So glad montero production has been in AAA all year.

2015-07-31 18:42

More seriously though... If the hitting sticks, it'll just be more questions for Z. Why'd he leave him down so long? Etc., etc.

2015-07-31 18:32

If Thin Montero saves Jack's GMship... That would suck.

2015-07-31 17:58

Good Taijain is REALLY good.

2015-07-31 17:47

The marte excitement was short lived. He's and terrible as the rest of them.

2015-07-31 17:46

I do have to wonder why, facing a lefty, you give Marte the extra AB over Montero.

2015-07-31 17:25

Thank you icebreaker.. really dunno what it'll take to move these guys along.. they either got some dirt on someone..or are just plain likeable guys..? They surely haven't been staying around based on the product they are putting on the field.

2015-07-31 17:25

Her ya go Matt. http://www.bucsdugou...

2015-07-31 16:59

Without knowing much of anything, I'm looking forward to seeing how marte goes. About time someone hits the ground running.

2015-07-31 16:55

Jack sold about everything that could be sold. But not happy with the fact he's still around. The M's should have fired him and Lloyd after the AZ sweep. Other orgs actually worry about winning instead of hurting people's feelings.

2015-07-31 16:47

Definately excited to see Cano back. Last 11 games he has 5 hr 12 rbi and is batting nearly .400

2015-07-31 16:47

Each time I load this website now, I get an increasingly long list of SQL errors at the top in a pink box. Busch League, guys.

2015-07-31 16:24

For Iwakuma, I'm pretty sure it was a no-arbitration clause in his contract since it was before the QO system. The team can have control for 6 years as well, but that might also have been signed away in the contract to make him a full FA at the end of his contract.

2015-07-31 16:18

Interesting line-up tonight...glad to see Montero back. Hate Marte though...ugh

Dangit...I didn't realize Iwakuma couldn't be nontendered. I hope he will be willing to take a team-friendly deal.

2015-07-31 16:09

Looking forward to the game today. First time in a while

2015-07-31 15:35

It sounds like upper team officials already nixed Iwakuma deal...Espn crushed #Seattle in article as big loser during this trade period. I can see their point with limited return we got, but they also felt we should have traded away Iwakuma..instead of stopping a potential deal. Maybe it woukd have bore more fruit, but I'm glad he's staying..

2015-07-31 15:30

#International contracts come with their own clauses. Iwakuma has to be "non-tendered" at the end of his contract. You can't QO non-tendered players. Unless ownership changes I don't see a scenario where Iwakuma isn't back in #Seattle next year.

2015-07-31 15:23

I am not sure if he is up for qualifying offer or not, but probably doesn't matter as noone ever takes the qo anyway.

2015-07-31 15:11

All this trade talk is making my mouth water :)... better sooner than later.. make it happen

2015-07-31 14:42

Wasn't it reported that the Kuma is ineligible for the QO due to a provision in his contract?

2015-07-31 14:29

Sampson is a sinkerballer...he'll give up singles because he doesn't miss bats enough...nothing special, but the sort of guy you can plug in whenever you need a starter and get something competitive out of it.

2015-07-31 14:21

Sampson is a low HR, low K, mid-high H/9 guy. He's something to throw at the wall. Matt, I'm with you on Marte. He doesn't walk and has no pop....he needs to hit.300.

2015-07-31 14:08 now we can QO Kuma and #Jackson with there's that...and we got an MLB-ready fringe BOR's that too.

2015-07-31 13:50

That's actually a decent pick-up and for low cost.

2015-07-31 13:45

Adrian Sampson

2015-07-31 13:34

Happ out? Wow. They that mad at him for tipping? What'd we get? I don't see anything on MLBTR

2015-07-31 13:22

Happ traded to Pirates. Can't say I blame 'em - playing his way out of QO position lately.

2015-07-31 12:53

Ketel of #Fish doesn't excite me at all.

2015-07-31 12:33

Marte with the call up. Will likely get some CF time. Would have preferred O'Malley.

2015-07-31 12:29

I like the hauls we got for both players we traded...really helps the minor league pitching depth and gives us an Endy Chavez-class fourth outfielder with upside to boot. So...nice work, Jack. Now don't let the door hit you in the tuckus on the way out.

2015-07-31 11:45

With the departures of Ackley and Lowe for prospects it is clear that the M's have given up on this season. Rightly so. But I sure hope some controls are in place to prevent Jack from making moves that are more than minor without serious review. His regime is surely doomed, and if so, one would think it wise to put any significant moves into the hands of a future GM.

2015-07-31 11:19

Brentz and Rasmussen the other two

2015-07-31 11:03

Wells should be in full-season ball next year at age 20. We'll see how he does. Looks like we're in the mode now of throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks.