The team was thought to be in on the bidding for free agent Michael Bourn, but when that fell through, the Rangers were left with trying to fill a massive, Josh Hamilton-sized hole in the outfield. Craig Gentry is one of the better defensive center fielders in the game, but he is average with the bat at his position. A good spring training gave Leonys Martin a slight edge, and he was named the Opening Day starter.
And then the season started, and Martin was just flat-out awful. By the end of April, Martin and Gentry were sharing the role and neither one was hitting. The Rangers were having a noticeably harder time with the offensive black hole coming out of center field.
Martin’s batting average climbed back up and fluctuated between .250 and .280 for most of May as he split playing time with Gentry. While those aren’t numbers that will get Martin into Cooperstown, it was enough to give Martin an edge over Gentry, who has really struggled at the plate this year.
Since June 12, Martin has gotten the start in 11 of Texas’s 13 games. He has responded well to the increased playing time, raising his OPS from .694 to .797 in that time. Martin has also been dangerous on the base paths, stealing four bases in a span of five days.
The real breakout came yesterday, when Martin blasted a pair of solo homers of Hiroki Kuroda in a 4-3 loss to the New York Yankees. While Martin is probably never going to hit 30 home runs in a season, the burst of power certainly is a welcome contribution from a spot where it’s been rare this season.
Martin is 25, four years younger than Gentry. Right now, the Rangers and manager Ron Washington should continue to play Martin on a daily basis and see if these positive results are a fluke or signs of a young player starting to figure things out.