By Yusseff Díaz
Leonys Martín who was a lead-off hitter with adequate power has transformed into a feared slugger in the land of the rising sun. In 241 at bats this season he has deposited 17 balls in the stands, leaving him third in that circuit longballs. His 44 RBI’s also place fourth in the Nippon League in that category.
The version of Martín that was a speedster and stole plenty of bases has been replaced by Leonys the masher. In his three season with Chiba he goes yard every 14.18 at bats. One thing that hasn’t changed about him is his potent arm, which has shown itself plenty during his career has yet to abandon him. In his three years in Japan he almost has a many dingers as during his nine years in the big leagues.
Although he has moved from his accustomed center field to right field because of his diminished ranged, the native of Corralillo, Cuba is still a plus defender.
Do you have a goal for this season?
I definitely do and that is to help my team win, I want to bring a title to Chiba Lotte. But I also want to better last year’s stats.
What has been the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make at the plate since coming to the NPB?
Well the biggest adjustment has been learning a new strike zone and becoming accustomed to the quirky mechanics of the Japanese pitchers. Everyday you face different challenges, this takes time to become familiar and comfortable with.
You don’t have the build of a Puig or a Céspedes, yet pound for pound you have as potent arm as their’s. How have you managed that?
Well, I’m not small either ( with a chuckle) I’m 6’2 and I weigh 220lbs. I think my arm is a gift from God because it’s a part of my game that dedicate the least amount of time to, but I do work on shoulder strength plenty. Everything else is thanks to God.
You’ve become a homerun hitter in Japan, what have you added to your training regimen to accomplish this?
I changed my game totally, I transformed my game from that off a speedster who was a slap hitter to one how hits homeruns and drives in runs. I always knew I had power but I never used it to my advantage, but now in this stage in my career I’ve dedicated myself to accomplishing this. I started this transformation by adding 15 lbs of muscle. I’ve adjusted the launch angle on my swing to hit less grounders and the homers have come as a byproduct of that adjustment.
You suffered a debilitating ankle injury late last year, are fully recovered?
Well I’m still dealing with some lingering effects and have a little pain, but I’m battling with the pain everyday. Putting on a little weight definitely doesn’t work in my favor, but it isn’t a pain that is going to kill me. I’m not 100 % but I’m still very effective as you can see. A full recovery might take a little more time.
Your brother Andy was selected by the Royals in the 2019 draft, what advice have you offered him?
My brother is more like my elder son, I stay giving him advice. I always give it to him straight about the good and the bad about life. My brother is a good kid and dedicated to reaching his goals, because of this he’s concentrated on being the best player he can become.
Would you one day like to return to Villa Clara and the Serie Nacional?
That would be a dream becoming reality and being able to wear my number 22 would be the icing on the cake, but to be realistic I don’t see that happening anytime soon.