Following a year in which he experienced shoulder problems and struggled at the Triple-A level, hurler Ethan Martin has fallen off many people’s radars when it comes to Phillies prospects. Despite his physical setbacks and an adjustment period after moving out of the starting rotation and into the bullpen, the righty still has an arm that could make an impact for the team.
Originally selected by the Dodgers in the 1st round (15th overall) in the 2008 amateur draft out of Stephens County High School (GA), when scouts weren’t sure if he would proceed as a pitcher or a third baseman in his career, Martin had not posted great numbers in the minors prior to 2012. He was acquired in the trade that sent Shane Victorino to LA.
In his first three years as a pro, Martin posted a 24-29 record with a 5.42 ERA. He missed action in 2008 due to a knee injury and officially began his pro career in 2009 with Great Lakes of the Class A Midwest League.
In 2012, with Double-A Chattanooga, Martin began to show why the Dodgers drafted him so early, as he tallied an 8-6 record with a 3.56 ERA en route to becoming a Southern League All-Star. Following his trade to the Phillies for Shane Victorino, Martin seemed unbeatable, posting a 5-0 record with a 3.18 ERA and a .206 batting average against in seven regular season starts for Reading in the Double-A Eastern League.
Martin also pitched very well for Reading in the EL playoffs that year, striking out 11 batters while walking none over 7 1/3 innings in a loss to Trenton, in which he surrendered three runs (one earned).
A year later, in his first full season in the Phillies organization, Martin struggled early, posting a 1-2 record with a 7.66 ERA while striking out 23 and walking 20 in 22 1/3 innings in five April starts for the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Martin turned things around over the 16 starts that followed, though, tallying a 10-3 record with a 3.27 ERA while striking out 84 and walking 47 in 93 1/3 innings.
The improved output into the summer months of 2013 earned Martin his first call up to the big leagues, where he went 2-5 with a 6.08 ERA and a .261 batting average against in 15 appearances (eight starts).
Early in spring training last year, Martin was diagnosed with an enlarged capsule in his throwing shoulder. Rest was required and Martin got a late start to his 2014 campaign.
After being activated from the disabled list in May, Martin tallied a 1.35 ERA 11 outings in the minors, which earned the Georgia native a promotion to the big leagues once again.
In two contests with the Phillies, Martin allowed two earned runs in four innings (4.50 ERA). Following a demotion back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, in 24 games, he posted a 2-1 record with a 4.54 ERA.
The shoulder soreness last year resulted in Martin not having all his velocity. Additionally, his transition to the bullpen took some getting used to. Less than stellar production under the circumstances is understandable.
Prior to the shoulder issues, the 25-year-old was regarded as a power pitcher, ranging from 93-96 MPH with his fastball in recent seasons. Martin’s repertoire also features a hard slider and a plus curve ball.
The area that has posed the greatest challenge for Martin has been his control, as his consistency with his mechanics have posed some concern. Working to overcome those struggles, he has shown improvement with his walk rate in the past two seasons. He’ll need to continue the trend of harnessing his command if he is to succeed in the big leagues.
Expect Martin to get some innings for the Phils in spring training with a chance to make the opening day roster with an impressive Grapefruit League season. Lehigh Valley is possibly a more likely April destination for the youngster, however.
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