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Indians Indians Archive Minor Happenings: Martin Is King Of The Valley
Written by Tony Lastoria

Tony Lastoria
With all Tony's visits to the Indians different minor league affiliates over the last couple weeks, he had so much content ... he needed to break "Minor Happenings" into three parts!  This is Part II, and Tony was actually able to talk with this weeks Minor League Player of the Week (Todd Martin) while out in Mahoning Valley to see the Scrappers play.  That interview is inside, as well as two interviews with Mahoning Valley shortstop Mark Thompson and Akron first baseman Michael Aubrey. Minor HappeningsAs noted yesterday, Minor Happenings has been broken up into three installments this week. Today, the second installment covers the Player of the Week, and also two short writeups of Akron first baseman Michael Aubrey and Mahoning Valley shortstop Mark Thompson.

Tomorrow, the regular recap of the news and notes in the system will post sans the Player of the Week and Director's Cuts since they were featured in a separate article.

Also, another reminder that there will be no Minor Happenings next week, but I have several articles in the pipeline which should post while I am on vacation. A recap of my visit to Lake County, along with writeups of right-hander Mike Eisenberg, outfielder Brian Barton, and third baseman Beau Mills should all post sometime next week. Minor League Player Of The Week
(for games from July 12 through July 19)

Todd Martin (First baseman - Mahoning Valley)
.438 AVG (14-32), 6 R, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 3 BB

For the second week in a row, Mahoning Valley first baseman Todd Martin takes home Player of the Week honors. Martin is a 2006 undrafted free agent signing out of Middle Tennessee State, and has been one of the biggest surprises and Todd Martinstories of the year. He has been so hot, that during my stop at Mahoning Valley last week I sought him out and had a chance to talk with him.

As an undrafted free agent in 2006, Martin had several teams looking at him after the draft while he was playing baseball in the Northern League.

"I had a couple teams talking to me and looking at me after the draft, but the Indians came with the first offer," said Martin. "I actually went ahead and started playing independent ball in the Northern League, and I was playing with the Gary Railcats. I was there for about a week and a half to two weeks before I signed with the Indians."

Martin brought a very productive bat with him. He did little to impress last year, hitting only .217 with 0 HR and 2 RBI in 11 games for the rookie-level GCL Indians. However, he has been a man amongst boys in Mahoning Valley this year in that through July 19th, he is hitting .392 with 7 HR, 27 RBI and a 1.100 OPS in 27 games. While he 24-years old, which is old for the league he is in, you still have to take notice of his numbers.

Martin also ranks 1st in the NY-Penn League in hitting (.392), 1st in hits (40), 1st in home runs (7), 1st in RBI (27), and 3rd in OPS (1.100). In addition, he is on pace to absolutely destroy many Mahoning Valley hitting records. Considering Martin has not even played a third of the 76-game schedule, he is on pace to break the team record for hits (101, Argenis Reyes 2004), home runs (12, Rickie Morton 2001), RBI (65, Ryan Church 2000), batting average (.349, Ben Francisco 2002), slugging percentage (.527, Chris Gimenez 2004), and on-base percentage (.419, Chris Gimenez 2004).

"I think my best attribute is my God-given ability at the plate with power and hitting for average," said Martin. "I've always been able to do both growing up, and my power has developed as I have gotten older. I also spray the ball around the field evenly."

Still, even with all the success he has had at the plate, Martin is always working to find ways to improve himself. "I have a tendency to get a little too anxious sometimes and have too much of an uppercut," says Martin. "So I am just trying to getTodd Martin in the cage everyday, day in and day out and just work on a downward plane and get backspin on the ball and work more on hitting line drives."

Martin also is working on a position change to first base. An outfielder his entire career before this year, the Indians decided to put him at first base this year. "I've always been an outfielder, so I just started playing first base this year (at Mahoning Valley)," said Martin. "It is new to me, but I am getting used to it and getting better with it each day. I'll probably be at first base the rest of the season."

The transition from the outfield to the infield will be an ongoing process for Martin this year, but so far so good with the move to first base. "We got some outfielders in the draft that will be out there and so they told me this is what you need to start doing to be in the lineup more consistently," said Martin. "I said anything that gets me on the field, I don't care where it is at. It's different, it's foreign, but I am getting used it. And starting to like it a little bit."

Here are some videos of Martin in action:

Video 1: Todd Martin taking batting practice
Video 2: Todd Martin hitting (overhead shot)
Video 3: Todd Martin at the plate

Honorable Mention:

Chris Gimenez (Utility - Akron): .407 AVG (11-27), 6 R, 4 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 BB
Matt Whitney (1B - Kinston): .320 AVG (8-25), 3 R, 3 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, BB
Paolo Espino (RHP - Lake County): 0-1, 1.50 ERA, 6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K

Previous Winners:

7/5 to 7/11: Todd Martin (1B - Mahoning Valley)
6/28 to 7/4: Rodney Choy Foo (IF - Akron)
6/21 to 6/27: Reid Santos (LHP - Akron)
6/15 to 6/20: John Van Every (Outfielder - Buffalo)
6/8 to 6/14: Chris Gimenez (Utility - Kinston)
6/1 to 6/7: Aaron Laffey (LHP - Buffalo)
5/24 to 5/31: Josh Rodriguez (SS - Kinston)
5/17 to 5/23: Shawn Nottingham (LHP - Akron)
5/10 to 5/16: Matt Whitney (1B - Lake County)
5/3 to 5/9: Chuck Lofgren (LHP - Akron)
4/26 to 5/2: Adam Miller (RHP - Buffalo)
4/19 to 4/25: Shawn Nottingham (LHP - Akron)
4/12 to 4/18: Jason Stanford (LHP - Buffalo)
4/5 to 4/11: Matt McBride (C - Lake County)

Aubrey Looking To Make Up For Lost Time

Akron first baseman Michael Aubrey is as talented a first baseman you will see in the minors, as he is an excellent hitter and is slick with the glove at first base. Coming into this season, in 238 career minor league games, he had hit .318 with 37 HR, 193 RBI, and a .923 OPS.

But, his problem the last several years has not been production, but staying healthy. He has endured many long spells on the disabled list the last three years, and those 238 games played coming into the season have come over 3 ½ seasons (roughly 460 possible games). Last year, for the second straight year, Aubrey was lost early in the season when he injured himself sliding into second base and suffered a surface fracture on his right knee joint. This year, a promising springMichael Aubrey training was halted when he was injured near the end of camp and once again was sidelined to start the season. He finally was activated in late-May, and has been able to stay on the field since.

"I feel good just being out there," says Aubrey. "It is nice to be out on the field and playing as often as I have been able to. I just have been working on the little things in getting back into the game."

When Aubrey talks about the little things, he mostly means getting used to the daily grind of playing everyday, which is something he has never gotten used to since being drafted in the first round of the 2003 Draft out of Tulane.

"The little things are just the grind of playing everyday and getting acclimated to Double-A pitching," says Aubrey. "Putting in a good gameplan and just trying to drive in runs and help these guys out. Just have fun out there. It is fun to be playing, as it is difficult when you are not able to play for any reason."

Aubrey was involved in an infield collision with catcher Wyatt Toregas back on July 3rd. Both Aubrey and Toregas attempted to catch a popup in the infield around the mound and they had a nasty collision. There was a collective sigh of relief from those in attendance when Aubrey walked away pretty much unscathed except for a fat lip and some loose teeth.

"This is my collision (pointing to his mouth), nine stitches," says Aubrey. "I also got a splint and braces as I knocked three teeth loose. I knocked this one all the way back. I thought it was gone when I ran into him (Toregas). When he hit me in the mouth, I thought I lost my tooth. I ran into him, and he didn't even knock me down (laughter). I walked over to the dugout, and I wasn't upset I was just mad and furious more than anything as I have had teeth issues before when I was a kid."

Since Aubrey has spent roughly half his career on the disabled list, it is not known whether or not Aubrey will try to make up for lost time this offseason by playing winter ball. The Indians surely want him to do it so he can make up some of the atMichael Aubrey bats missed over the course of the past few years, but right now Aubrey is concentrating on just getting through the season healthy.

"I don't know of any plans yet this offseason (on playing winter ball)," says Aubrey. "My focus is on one day at a time right now and that is what my goal is going to be everyday as I come to the field ready to play. Whatever happens, happens. If an opportunity to go play this offseason comes I am going to take advantage assuming everything feels great."

With about a month and a half left in the season, Aubrey has his sights set on finishing the season strong. He hit .400 with 5 HR and 11 RBI at Kinston in 13 games before being called up to Akron in early June, but at Akron he is only hitting .214 with 4 HR and 16 RBI in 29 games. Yet, Aubrey is not concerned with the drop in production since being called up to Akron.

"If I keep playing and playing, the numbers will take care of themself," says Aubrey. "The more you are out there obviously, the more consistent you are going to perform so I think that is the key, to get out there and become as consistent as possible. Pretty much that's the name of the game, especially at the plate. Defensively, you just need to make the routine plays and occasionally make the great play. That's just what you work for."

Here is a video of Aubrey in action:

Video 1: Michael Aubrey at the plate

Thompson Adjusting To Pro Ball

Mahoning Valley shortstop Mark Thompson is making the adjustment going from college to professional baseball. Thompson transferred from Edmunds Community college - near Seattle, Washington - to Lewis-Clark State College and in his senior year this year hit .382 with 4 HR, 42 RBI and 38 stolen bases in 62 games.
Mark Thompson
Unfortunately, the transition to professional ball has not gone well so far for Thompson as he is only hitting .230 with 0 HR, 6 RBI, 5 stolen bases and a .599 OPS in 27 games. Even still, Thompson is working hard and doing his best to make the necessary adjustments to get back on track.

"I'm just trying to get more of a load with my hands at the plate," says Thompson. "It is a little bit of an adjustment (professional baseball), but not that much different from college. Using wood bats, and the velocity of pitchers is different. Also, playing every day, and getting a routine going."

Thompson is a versatile defender, as not only can he play shortstop, he says he can also play second base and can even play the outfield if needed.

Here is a video of Thompson in action:

Video 1: Shortstop Mark Thompson at the plate

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