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2023 Chicago Cubs prospect profiles: Riley Martin

He’s a southpaw on the stairstep of the major leagues.

Photo by Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images

This series of Cubs prospect profiles is based on Fangraphs’ top 52 prospects list, minus the players who have already been profiled. Generally, these will be of Triple-A and Double-A players that might see the 40-man roster at some point. I’m not necessarily doing them in order and will skip around a bit.

Riley Cole Martin could be a Chicago Cub as early as 2024, which is when Fangraphs projects him to arrive. He’s not the Space Cowboy, but a medium-sized (6’1”, 215) lefthander, a native of southern Illinois, a former sixth-round pick of the Cubs, with three good years in the organization and a 14-7 lifetime record, with a 3.93 ERA in 155⅔ innings in 83 games, a splendid 238 strikeouts and no-so-good 96 bases on balls. He’s 30th on the Fangraphs Cubs prospect list but he’s 25 and this is put up or shut up time.

Todd Johnson had some good things to say in January and those things seem to have been borne out by events. Martin has a mid-90s fastball, a curve, and a new slider that has sharp break to it, plus a new changeup. Tim Huwe considered him an’ under-the-radar guy’, and says that he has a chance since he can spin the ball. Martin himself considers that his greater arsenal of pitches will work to his advantage.

And it might.

“I’ve never been able to pronate the ball,” Martin said, referencing the way the ball is held with the thumb and palm pointing downward. “I’m a natural supinator at release. So we worked with a grip that allows me to supinate the changeup, which is kind of the opposite of what you were always taught growing up.

“You always think you pronate the changeup. You want the thumb down. With the grip I’m using, it’s a seam-shifted changeup, which allows me to release it supination so it comes off my middle finger so the wind catches the seam the right way and just kicks it down. It’s pretty cool.”

Here’s a little video for you:

He has a starter’s arsenal but he’s likely destined to be a reliever. He could be a leverage reliever... he just, as most young pitchers do, needs to refine command and control. His coaches have lauded his work habits and potential. Now it’s time to use the former to unlock the latter.

Martin should be in the Spring Training mix. Arizona Phil has him in relief at Double-A but that’s just a nicety at this point. He’s expected at Triple A, but the numbers haven’t been sorted out yet. He should compete with Bailey Horn and Luke Little for LH bullpen spots. Martin is not, however, on the 40-man roster.

But he could be. We’ll see in the spring.