KC Royals: Why this Omaha player is worth watching

(Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

The Omaha Storm Chasers beat Iowa 10-3 Wednesday night. Yes, Bobby Witt Jr. and Nick Pratto both homered. Three Chasers rapped three hits apiece for the KC Royals’ Triple-A club, and yes, Witt was one of them. So was Ryan McBroom.

Surprisingly, the other wasn’t Edward Olivares. Instead, it was Rudy Martin, who all Kansas City fans should know, but many probably don’t.

But if Martin stays on the path he’s been on this season, he may become far more familiar. He’s good and getting better.

This is Martin’s sixth professional season, and would have been his seventh had COVID-19 not forced cancellation of the entire 2020 minor league campaign. Martin probably wanted desperately to play last year after hitting .185 in 2019, his worst season with the bat following four promising campaigns.

Martin, though, had to wait for 2021 to prove that those initial three seasons weren’t flukes. He’d burst onto the pro scene in 2015, the year after the Royals chose him deep (25th round, 753rd overall) in the 2014 amateur draft, slashing .338/.480/.541 with a 1.021 OPS and 14 stolen bases for Kansas City’s Arizona Rookie club. Credit plate discipline for those numbers: he walked almost 20% of the time.

He spent 2016 back at Arizona, then at Idaho Falls, another KC Rookie-level team. He hit just .250, but still found ways to get on base with a .342 OBP, and stole 20 bases. Martin moved up to Low-A Lexington in 2017; despite injury, he slashed .277 with a .365 OBP and swiped 26 bases in 30 tries.

Martin batted only .235, but still managed a .346 OBP between Idaho Falls, High-A Wilmington (where he stole a career-high 29 bases), and Double-A Northwest Arkansas in 2018.

Then came 2019 and that terrible .185 average. The .260 OBP he posted across stints at Lexington, Wilmington, and Omaha, is also a career low. But he did steal 26 bases.

This year, though, is different.

Rudy Martin is having an excellent comeback season in the KC Royals’ system.

Martin is back and better than before. He began the season at Northwest Arkansas; after hitting .318 with a .450 OBP, Kansas City promoted him to Omaha. The three hits he collected against Iowa Wednesday night raised his Triple-A average to .270 to go with a .398 OBP. He also has nine steals and 16 RBIs in 31 games with the Storm Chasers.

And the 10 home runs he’s hit—five at Omaha and five for the Naturals—are the most he’s clubbed in any season yet.

Don’t be tempted to believe those homers make Martin the power hitter he really isn’t. Instead, at 5-feet-7 and 155 pounds, he’s more of a Terrance Gore or Jarrod Dyson, a shorter, speedier player who rarely homers but knows how to steal bases and distract pitchers.

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Martin, 25, is also a versatile outfielder. He’s played 103 games in right field, 93 in left, and 86 in center. But as his .965 career fielding percentage through Tuesday’s games suggests, his glove needs some work.

Will Martin make it to Kansas City? Probably not this season, especially with the club’s limited ability to expand its roster in September, but don’t be surprised if he pays a visit to Kauffman Stadium sometime next year.

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Rudy Martin is an emerging talent in the KC Royals system.