Back in 2016, the New York Yankees selected a starting pitcher out of Culver City, California in the third round who impressed them with his incredibly high fastball spin rate and overall presence on the mound. That starting pitcher is none other than Nolan Martinez. Martinez was able to land a $1.15 million signing bonus when he signed with the Yankees. The raw tools are there for Martinez to develop into a really solid starting pitcher, but his first few years of professional baseball have been focused on his physical development. The amount of spin that Martinez can put on the ball is hard to teach, however, his lack of development caused his stuff to lack a little speed. In addition to that, he was a two-pitch pitcher who focused on his fastball and curveball. The New York Yankees have been working with Martinez on developing his changeup to complement those two pitches, and he showed that off in an impressive 2019 campaign.
Nolan Martinez who is getting ready to turn 22, appeared in seven games in 2019 and started six of those games. In those appearances, Martinez went 1-2 in 32.2 innings pitched. Martinez had an ERA and a pretty good WHIP of 1.10 in 2019. In watching film from last season, there are a couple of things that really stand out when watching Martinez pitch. He really goes right after guys and he’s rarely in a hitters count. Martinez focuses on keeping the ball down and has said that he tries to induce ground balls. Despite getting a lot of swings and misses, Martinez doesn’t strike out as many batters as you’d think. However, his offspeed pitches plus the riding life on his fastball induces a lot of weak contact which keeps him out of trouble. There is plenty to like about the slim right-hander from California.
Areas for Improvement
When the season gets underway, I’d just like to see Martinez continue to develop physically. He stands 6’2 but only weighs 165 pounds. Of course, we’ve seen skinny pitchers thrive in baseball, but I’d like to see him add a little more strength if possible. His fastball does occasionally touch the mid-90s, but I’d like to see it flirt in the upper-90s. Combining the higher speed with his natural spin would make that fastball incredibly difficult to square up. In addition to adding a little strength, I’d like to see the changeup continue to develop. Right now, I’m comfortable watching Martinez throw his top two pitches, but sometimes the changeup looks a little flat to me. If he can improve the changeup to be on the same level as his curveball, he could quickly rise through the ranks of Yankees prospects. Martinez is definitely a guy who has the tools and the talent to become a quality starter at the MLB level in a couple of years.