DETROIT, MI - MAY 22: Leonys Martin #2 of the Texas Rangers smiles after swinging for a strike against utility infielder Danny Worth of the Detroit Tigers in the ninth inning at Comerica Park on May 22, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. Martin eventually struck out against Worth. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
The Rangers' 2014 season is a lost cause after four straight years of being serious pennant contenders and two-time winners. So why watch the rest of the season?
Reason: Martin's maturation
Looking for reasons to watch the Texas Rangers over the second half of the season, even though they're not headed anywhere good? Well, first of all, it's professional baseball. That should be enough. If it's not, the Rangers have some intriguing story lines and one of them is following the maturation of a possible long-term key piece of the lineup.
Leonys Martin has been highly touted since he signed as an international free agent out of Cuba back in 2011 to a five-year deal worth $15.5 million without a day of big-league experience. He was touted for his speed and good power for a speedy, base-stealing center fielder and seen as a possible long-term fix at the leadoff spot in the order.
So far, Martin has shown stretches of promise, as evidenced by a brief stint in the leadoff role last summer that made him one of the hotter players in baseball, and by a good stretch this year that saw his season average get up around .300. Last season, he stole 36 bases and drove in nearly 50 runs last year while hitting mainly out of the eighth or ninth spot in the lineup. He did strike out way too much and not walk nearly enough.
The biggest knock on Martin, who has an absolute cannon in center field, has been his defensive play, though. His poor routes to balls and misjudgments have hurt the Rangers just as much, if not more, than his outfield assists have helped.
This year, he's on pace to have a better offensive year than last year, which would be a step. But what the Rangers really want to see is if he can improve on his defense. He's already up to five errors this year after committing just six last season, so it's not too promising.
Martin has a great opportunity to be the Rangers' center fielder for a long time, but he's not a certainty yet. A solid second half will go a long way to earning him untouchable status considering he can't become a free agent until 2019 and is affordable.