Given where James Marvel started the season, it’s not likely that many figured they’d see him in Pittsburgh right about now.
Yet that’s just where the 26-year-old right-hander is finishing his season, one that saw him leap two minor-league levels, lead all minor league pitchers in wins and earn a spot in the Pirates’ major league rotation.
In the process, the former Duke University hurler earned recognition as the franchise’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
While Marvel claimed the organization’s annual pitching prize, power-hitting first baseman Mason Martin captured the Pirates Minor League Player of the Year honors. Both honors were announced Wednesday.
Marvel, who was selected in the 36th round of the 2015 draft while recovering from Tommy John surgery, posted a combined 16-5 record and a 2.94 ERA in 162 1/3 innings this season.
In 28 starts – 17 at Double-A Altoona and 11 at Triple-A Indianapolis – Marvel struck out 136 batters and walked 46 while posting a 1.09 WHIP.
He opened the season by going 9-5 with a 3.10 ERA and 83 strikeouts at Altoona, and that earned him a ticket to Indianapolis on July 5. At the time, marvel was leading the Eastern League in wins and ranked among the top 10 in both strikeouts and ERA.
From the time of his promotion to Indianapolis until he was called up to Pittsburgh, Marvel led the International League with seven wins and a .214 batting average-against. In addition, his 2.67 ERA and 1.12 WHIP were second in the IL among league qualifiers.
Larry Broadway, the Pirates’ senior director of Minor League Operations, said the key to Marvel’s success this year is his preparation, which he characterized as “off the charts.”
“His attention to detail in how he goes about the four days in between his starts are really what separates him from the rest and what allows him to execute at the level that he does,” Broadway said in a club news release.
“He is a model for what preparation and execution looks like. He truly earned this honor and the opportunity to pitch in Pittsburgh.”
Since his recall to the Pirates, has had his troubles, yielding nine earned runs and 13 hits in nine innings while going 0-2. He will look to turn his fortunes around when he faces the Brewers in Milwaukee in a 7:10 p.m. start Saturday.
Martin is a ways away from joining Marvel in the Pirates’ North Shore clubhouse, but he certainly made his presence known in the minor leagues this season.
The 6-foot, 201-pound left-handed hitting slugger led all of minor league baseball with 129 RBIs and tied for seventh with 35 home runs.
Martin’s 35 homers and 129 RBIs were the most of any Pirate minor leaguer since Brad Eldred hit 38 home runs and knocked in 137 in 2004.
The Pirates selected Martin in the 17th round of the 2017 draft out of Kennewick, Wash., and his power became apparent right away as he slugged 11 home runs and drove in 22 while hitting .307 in 39 games that year for the Pirates’ Gulf Coast League entry.
In 2018, he hit a combined 14 home runs and collected 58 RBIs in 104 games but batted just .220 with a .722 OPS in stops at Bristol in the Appalachian League and West Virginia in the South Atlantic League.
He started this season at Greensboro of the same South Atlantic League, where he clubbed 19 home runs and drove in 83 in 82 games. That earned him a promotion to Bradenton in the Florida State League – a league not known for its power numbers – and there he crushed 12 home runs with 46 RBIs in 49 games.
Martin led all Florida State League hitters in home runs, RBIs, total bases, slugging (.528) and OPS (.861) during his time at Bradenton.
Broadway said the Pirates certainly were proud of Martin’s accomplishments this year.
“He put in a ton of work in the offseason to prepare for this year,” he said, “and his daily commitment to preparing, learning and growing throughout the season really allowed him to perform at the level he did all year.”