Astros Player of the Day: Seth Martinez

Aug 27, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Seth Martinez (61) delivers a pitch during the seventh inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Astros Player of the Day: Seth Martinez

Welcome to Gallery Sports’ Houston Astros Spring Training player spotlight, Astros Player of the Day. We will look at a different Astros player each day throughout spring training.

Today’s Astros Player of the Day is reliever Seth Martinez.

On any other team, Martinez would be a high-leverage reliever who would be asked to get big outs with the game on the line, but Martinez pitches for the Astros, and on the Astros, he was baseball’s most overqualified last man on a pitching staff.

Martinez appeared in 29 games with the Astros in 2022 and finished the season with a 2.09 ERA over 38.2 innings, but because of the depth the Astros had on the mound, he didn’t appear in a postseason game and was not even included on the roster for the ALDS or World Series.

Martinez’s fastball averages 91.9 MPH, which has him in the 19th percentile among all pitchers in baseball, per Baseball Savant, but his most important pitch is a slider that opponents hit .167 against last season with only two extra-base hits and a 41% whiff rate. The problem for Martinez is that he only throws that pitch to right-handed hitters.

He threw his slider 44.5% of the time to righties but just 6.3% of the time to lefties, so he had to face lefties without his biggest weapon, and the results bear that out. Martinez held righties to a .394 OPS with a 28% strikeout rate and an 8% walk rate, but lefties finished with a .777 OPS, 18% strikeout rate, and 11% walk rate.

The Astros were so wary of Martinez facing lefties that Dusty Baker opted to have him pitch to Aaron Judge in the 10th inning of a tie game with two men on base rather than have him face a lefty, Anthony Rizzo, with the bases loaded. The at-bat resulted in Judge hitting the only homer off Martinez’s slider all season.

The 28-year-old, who the Astros selected in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft from Oakland, features a changeup to left-handed hitters, and while it was effective in 2022, it was not a pitch he could go to when he needed a strikeout. Of the 26 changeups Martinez threw with two strikes to left-handed hitters, only two swung and missed.

The odds are against Martinez making the Astros’ opening day roster. With the team likely starting the season with a six-man rotation, they will only be allowed to carry seven relievers. Ryan Pressly, Rafael Montero, Bryan Abreu, Hector Neris, Ryne Stanek, and Phil Maton would seem to be locks for the bullpen, so that effectively leaves one open spot open, and you know Dusty Baker will push for that spot to be filled by a lefty.

Martinez will play a role with the Astros in 2023, even if he starts the season in Sugar Land, but whether it’s the changeup or another pitch, he will have to develop some sort of weapon when combating left-handed hitters.

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