Leonys Martin chipped in 24 stolen bases and 15 homers in 2016, but struggled to replicate that production in his sophomore season with Seattle. The 29-year-old hit just .174/.221/.287 in 34 games with the Mariners before being designated for assignment and subsequently traded to the Cubs, with whom his struggles continued. He's still a well-regarded defender and baserunner; while Martin has never been even a league-average hitter as measured by wRC+, he has done enough overall to be worth two-plus wins above replacement on three different occasions according to FanGraphs (2013, 2014 and 2016). That track record was enough to land him a big-league deal with the Tigers this offseason. He will compete with Victor Reyes this spring to open the year as the starting center fielder, and could prove to be a solid source of speed.
Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said he'd like Martin to be aggressive on the bases atop the lineup, Jason Beck of MLB.com reports. Martin's career high in steals is 36, which he recorded in 2013 with the Rangers. The 30-year-old stole just seven bases last season, but Martin struggled across the board and got on base at just a .232 clip. If he can improve upon that mark in 2018, it sounds like Martin should have a chance to record a decent number of steals as Detroit's table setter.
Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said that Martin will likely be the team's leadoff hitter, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports. Martin has regularly hit first this spring, so Gardenhire's comments merely reinforce what's started to become apparent. The team likes Martin's speed atop the lineup, but of course he will have to improve upon his career-worst .172/.232/.281 slash line from 2017 if he wants to hold onto the job.
Martin has ditched his upper-cut swing from last season and is working on a flatter swing in spring training, Chris McCosky of The Detroit News reports. Martin increased his launch angle last year in search of more power and the results were miserable, as he posted a career-worst .172/.232/.281 slash line and struck out 25 percent of the time. So he's going back to his previous approach of trying to hit more groundballs and line drives. Martin looks like the top candidate to lead off for the Tigers this year, and the team will surely want him to emphasize getting on base over hitting for power. If Martin gets on base enough, he could be a sneaky source of speed, as he's stolen at least 20 bases in a season three times in his career.
Martin has manned the leadoff spot in each of the six Grapefruit League games he's started this spring and could maintain that role to open the 2018 campaign, Evan Woodbery of MLive.com reports. The Tigers may look at other options atop the order against southpaws, but the lefty-hitting Martin looks poised to set the table for Detroit in most games against right-handed pitching, at least to begin the season. Martin opened the 2017 campaign as the Mariners' everyday center fielder before a putrid .174/.221/.287 batting line through 34 games resulted in him getting designated for assignment. Though his performance at the plate rebounded upon his demotion to the minors, Martin's one-year, $1.75 million contract with the Tigers will afford him little job security if he gets off to a similarly rough start in 2018. Even so, Martin's track record of excellent steals production coupled with his favorable assignment in the batting order could be enough to make him an appealing target in the end game of drafts and auctions.
Martin signed a one-year contract with the Tigers on Tuesday. The deal is worth $1.75 million and includes up to $1.1 million in incentives, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Martin struggled in 2017, splitting time between the Cubs and Mariners and hitting a combined .172/.231/.281 across 49 games between the two clubs. He's still a respectable defender and baserunner, however, and has shown flashes of being a serviceable hitter in the past (.247/.306/.378 with 15 homers and 24 steals in 2016), so he could be a sneaky source of steals/pop if he's able to win a starting job in Detroit's outfield out of spring training.
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