Every team needs players who can get on base. The Royals need players who can get on base and cover ground in a spacious outfield. Enter Rudy Martin, a prospect who can run and get on base in the extreme.
Martin was drafted in the 25th round out of Lewisburg High School in 2014. He’s a prototypical Royals pick. The Royals love to take fliers on athletic high schoolers who need a lot of development as ball players because you can teach someone to hit, but you can’t teach them to be fast.
After three seasons of solid production, Martin is having one of the most unusual seasons I’ve seen, slashing .250/.435/.375 with 20 walks and 14 stolen bases in 20 games. That’s right, as a non-power hitter, Martin is averaging one walk per game, and for a while, he was averaging one stolen base per game. In a 162-game season, he’d be on pace for 162 walks and 113 stolen bases.
His walk rate is what really strikes me. It’s pretty rare to see someone with an OBP 185 points higher than his BA this late into the season. He’s second in the Carolina league in OBP despite his batting average; the player in front of him is hitting .375. Martin’s 23% walk rate would be second in the majors behind only Bryce Harper.
While this may simply be a momentary spike in walk rate, Martin has shown patience his entire professional career. He has a 15% walk rate throughout his three-plus professional seasons, and it seems like he understands the value of a person with speed finding any way to get on base.
And he does have speed. BP Kansas City’s prospect guide describes him as having “Jarrod Dyson type speed,” and to this point, he has shown a Dyson-like aptitude for turning that speed into stolen bases.
If we stick with that comparison, and I do like it as a comparison since both are left-handed hitting speed demons from the state of Mississippi with some line drive pop, it’s clear that Martin is at least as far along offensively as Dyson was early in his career, and perhaps further. He has more patience and a little more power than Dyson did as a young player. Martin has a .125 ISO this season and a .131 ISO for his career.
Martin’s defense might be another story. I haven’t had a chance to see him play in person, but reports suggest his arm is only average where Dyson’s arm was solidly above average. Despite an average arm, Martin should still be able to stay in center field, which he needs to do or his value will drop drastically.
If Martin continues to develop, he could be the centerfielder and leadoff hitter for the next truly competitive Royals team. He’ll need to increase his hit tool just a bit to play up his on-base skills even more. Right now, he strikes out too much, seemingly as the result of his extreme patience. He’ll also need to keep refining his defense, including tracking fly balls.
Full disclosure, I always thought Dyson was more than a fourth outfielder, and Martin has even more patience at the plate. With continuing development, he may have what it takes to go a step further than Dyson did with the Royals.