We are three days away from hearing baseballs popping into catcher's mitts on the Peoria backfields. A few days afterward, a long list of Non-Roster Invites (NRIs) will make their way to the desert with an opportunity to squeeze their way on a seemingly packed roster. One of those players hoping to break camp with the team and make their return to T-Mobile Park is outfielder Leonys Martin.
The former Mariner signed a minor league deal with the Mariners yesterday with an NRI to spring training. He's spent the past three-plus seasons playing for Chiba Lotte in Japan with varying degrees of success. Martin accumulated a .220/.350/.461 slash line in 340 games. He struck out a ton and the average isn't anything to write home about, but other statistics show a transformation in his approach.
The 34-year-old outfielder started walking at rates well above his career norms, moving from 4.3 stateside to 7.9 during his time in Japan. He racked up 197 walks, which more than likely inflated the on-base percentage, but this team likes that attribute (see Carlos Santana). Additionally, the power is still there, as evidenced by Martin's 136 extra-base hits.
There is a scenario where the veteran makes the team, but it isn't what most fans want. I think Jarred Kelenic comes into the season as the left fielder and will get plenty of run to sink or swim. However, ifTaylor Trammell struggles to grab hold of a bench spot or Dylan Moore isn't ready for opening day Martin could sneak his way onto the roster.
The feel-good story of the spring could be an old friend breaking camp with the team. Or he could be headed to Tacoma with an opportunity to augment a playoff contender later in the season. Either way, the storylines continue to surround the backfields of Peoria.