We continue our look at the Washington Nationals’ non-roster invitees for Spring Training by focusing on a reliever that has been in the team’s minor league system since 2007, but could be showing solid form at the right time. 30-year old Rafael Martin is one of nine relievers that received the invitation to go down to Spring Training in Viera, Florida.
This offseason, Martin was one of the pitchers in the Nationals organization who took part in winter ball, playing for Naranjeros de Hermosillo in the Mexican League. In 24 appearances, he recorded no decisions, but had a 1.90 ERA and had ten saves. The ten saves were tied for fifth among all relievers in the league.
Last season, in the minor leagues, Martin rose on both the double-A and triple-A levels. In double-A Harrisburg, he made 11 appearances and went 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA. At one point, Martin had a streak in which he went ten straight games without an earned run. He gave up six runs in his first outing with the Senators, but did not look back after that. Those excellent results led to him being promoted to Syracuse.
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Over in Syracuse, Martin showed fantastic control of his pitches, walking just seven batters in 25 games. With the Chiefs, he went 1-1 with a 0.80 ERA, saved ten games in 11 chances, and struck out 42 batters in 33.2 innings. One of the unique stats about Martin’s season in triple-A was that he did not allow a single earned run in 14 home appearances!
One of the great pitches in Martin’s arsenal is his slider. In an article written by Lindsay Kramer of Syracuse.com last July, he talks about a conversation he had with Chiefs’ pitching coach Paul Menhart about Martin’s slider, which has a lot more rotation than your average slider:
“He spins the daylight out of that thing,” Menhart said. “It has some serious revolutions coming at you.”
In addition to his slider, Mark Scialabba talked about in the organization All-Star piece about how the Nationals’ right-hander gets some very good movement on his pitches:
“He sinks and cuts the ball very well, he stays out of the middle of the strike zone and was able to put together a very impressive run of consecutive scoreless innings this year.”
Martin has been an organization All-Star twice in his minor career, in 2011 and this past season. While he hasn’t yet cracked the Major Leagues yet, this is a pitcher that should see the big show in 2015 if he continues to dominate in the way that he has at the Major League level. He has come along a way after pitching from 2007-2009 in the Mexican League, but now the hard work is starting to pay off for Martin.