Cubs Minors: A former 184th overall pick, Riley Martin is turning heads

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Over the past couple weeks, it has felt like the Myrtle Beach Pelicans have been my toast of the town. Everything has seemingly tied to what the Chicago Cubs Class-A affiliate is doing in the early sprawl of the Minor League Baseball season. But, of course, part of the fun is uncovering the gems who have impacted the organization in a way worthy of note, and the next man up is 24-year-old left-hander Riley Martin.

Martin attended college and played five seasons at Quincy University. As many Cubs fans are probably aware, Quincy was last chalked at a population of just over 40,000 according to US Census data from 2020. Further, the private university has a student body of just over 1,000 young academics, which should give you an idea of the expectations.

As a starter at the collegiate level, Martin racked up 308 1/3 career innings for the Hawks, compiling a 3.85 ERA in 55 starts with a 25.5 percent strikeout rate. The numbers were not eye-popping, to say the least, and yet he still managed to be solid enough that the Cubs could land him at a value in the sixth round of last season’s draft and a low-low price tag of $10,000 to sign him.

Chicago Cubs Minors: Harnessing the bumps along the way

Martin moved from his fifth year at Quincy directly to the Pelicans in 2021, where he enjoyed a cup of coffee and a taste of professional baseball. Unfortunately, things did not go well in his eight appearances. The lefty posted a 5.52 ERA in 14 2/3 innings. However, he worked to a masterful 31.8 percent strikeout rate in that time and showed off why he was ultimately a value at 184th overall.

This season has been a complete 720-degree turn in terms of efficiency for Martin, and he has become his wrecking crew for the Pelicans. Martin is currently in South Bend; however, his sample size with Myrtle Beach is far more impressive, so we must distinguish the growth.

Before his very recent call-up to Class-A Advanced, Martin had made four appearances for the Pelicans throughout 13 1/3 innings in which he only posted a 0.68 ERA, 0.525 WHIP, walked just four of the 48 total batters he faced, and struck hitters out at a video game-esque 56.2 percent strikeout rate as Martin fanned 27 in that span.

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The most significant advantage within his repertoire is his biting curveball, which is his strongest pitch and the pitch he’s been able to land all of the swings and misses with, mixed in with a Kyle Hendricks fastball sitting in the low-90s. His ability to change speed and direction has been mainly what has worked for him, and as young as he still is, with more time to fully develop, the future is bright for the kid out of Quincy. Fans better keep tabs on Riley Martin in 2022 and beyond.