In the 2016 draft, Nolan Martinez was selected by the Yankees in the third round with the 98th pick overal. Before finishing his senior year of high school, the California native had already committed to San Diego State, but decided to forgo a college career and sign with the Yankees.
He signed with the team last July, and after being designated to the Gulf Coast League Yankees, allowed three runs in just seven innings pitched over three starts.
Despite his first year being hampered by injury, Martinez still saw it as a chance to learn and get better.
“Overall it was a cool experience just throwing regularly, not pitching, but getting used to the pro baseball aspect of the game,” Martinez said. “But I strained my lat last year and nobody knew how it happened. I didn’t know how it happened and the trainers didn’t know what happened, so I got an MRI and nothing showed up. It was just kind of a weird freak accident, but everything’s good now. It doesn’t hurt anymore, I’m 100 percent.”
Now in his second season with the organization, Martinez reflected back on his transition from high school to pro baseball.
“It wasn’t that big of a change other than staying in a hotel, waking up early, going to the field, eating at the field… just my whole routine kind of changed. Other than that, it was a pretty smooth transition,” he said. “Nothing really changed with my game, though, except for me putting on some weight, working out every day and making some small changes here and there, but nothing too big.”
Martinez just finished his first Spring Training and seemed happy about how it went and how he performed, but conceded that there are always things he could work on and things he could do better.
He’s currently got a fastball that sits in the low 90’s with a changeup and curveball in his arsenal, and he emphasized that some of the key things he worked on were the command of his fastball and developing his changeup.
“Fastball command is the top thing here. They’re not as worried about my secondary pitches, but fastball command… they’re really hard on that here.”
Martinez is currently working with the Yankees’ on their Extended Spring Training team. Being designated to Extended Spring Training didn’t come as a surprise to Martinez, but he plans to work hard wherever he’s at until he can land a spot on a long-season team.
“I kind of figured that I’d be here, but as you know, you always want to be put on a long-season team from the get-go,” he said. “It kind of hurt me that I wasn’t on one, but I know that I’m young and didn’t throw that many innings last year, so I think they want to get me more innings and experienced in pro ball.
“[Extended spring training] has been good. I’ve just been getting my work in and trying to build up so at the end of Extended Spring Training I’ll hopefully move up to a long-season team, but if not, I can do my best for that short-season team.”
As far as this Extended Spring Training season goes, Martinez said that he’s felt good through this early point in the season and that he’s really starting to see the work he put in during Spring Training make an impact on how he throws. While he admitted that his curveball still needs some work, and that he doesn’t have the same success with it like he once did, he has been happy with the command of his fastball and how he’s been able to work with his changeup.
“My pitches are all getting better because the fastball command is getting better. The changeup is a lot better than it was last year, the curveball is there but it isn’t as good as it was back in my high school days, but it’s getting there,” Martinez said. “I’ve just got to get more innings in, do well, and throw all those pitches for strikes.”