Sure, it's hard for anyone to predict that a freshman would be an All-American and they'd have a career ERA well under three going through their draft year. But Tadlock had a hunch. He knew Martin, a 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, had all the tools and ingredients to be a premier arm and a game-changer for the Red Raiders. Martin has been exactly as advertised in his three years on the South Plains, and his role in this program has never been more important than it is now after junior lefthander Steve Gingery went down with a season-ending injury earlier this season.
With Gingery going down, more pressure and potential workload was placed on Martin's shoulders. Some pitchers might succumb to the pressures of trying to keep a top-five team's head above water. But not Martin. He's thriving more than ever, putting up career numbers as the Red Raiders try to get back to the College World Series after falling just short last season.
Rising to the occasion is just part of Martin's DNA, and it's precisely why he's one of the best and most feared arms in the game.
"Well, what's the saying, pressure is a choice. He wants the ball every time we play and he'd take it from you if you gave it to him," Tadlock said. "He's an absolute guy and he's got what you need to win. He's been that way ever since he stepped on campus.
"There's a reason we were in line to get him out of high school," he continued. "We were very fortunate that he and his family trusted us enough to get him. It's been a lot of fun to watch, that's for sure." While Martin is having a season to remember as a junior and is ranked the No. 36 college prospect, up from 51 in the preseason, he established his consistency and brand on the national stage a long time ago. He made his presence felt two seasons ago, tallying a 10-1 record and a 2.52 ERA in 89.1 innings, along with 61 strikeouts and 27 walks. Incredibly, that was as a freshman, as the San Angelo, Texas, native helped the Red Raiders reach the CWS for the second time in three seasons, this after the program had never made a trip to Omaha before 2014.
His sophomore campaign was good, but it had some serious road blocks. Martin was diagnosed with tendinitis and discomfort in his arm, and was sidelined from the middle of March until the Big 12 tournament in late May. Even with the setback, Martin still managed to tally a solid 3.07 ERA and a 4-2 record, while also throwing 44 innings, striking out 37 and walking just 10 and holding teams to a .259 average, which was an improvement over the .271 OBA his outstanding freshman season.
In his first start back from the injury last season, a date with Oklahoma State in the conference tournament, he sat 90-91 in the first inning and settled in at 87-89 - a slight change from the velocity he showed in the Shriners College Classic and against Mississippi State earlier that season - 93-94 early and 89-92 for six innings. Still, getting him back on the mound was good news for the Red Raiders, and helped set the tone for what has been a fruitful 2018 campaign thus far.
"I think he's gotten better each week for us. He's been really, really steady. He's been as advertised," Tadlock said. "His breaking ball and changeup have been fine, and his fastball has been above average. But he still has that great makeup.
"His makeup is just off the charts. His mound presence - it's off the charts," he continued. "He's one of those that guys who as a hitter when you step into the batter's box, you know you better jump in there ready to hit. He's just got it, and that's the biggest thing about Davis. And he's going to continue getting better."
He's put together strong results for the Red Raiders so far this season, and quite frankly, he's had to. We talked about the loss of Gingery for the season, but Tech is also without Erikson Lanning for the rest of the season, while Jake McDonald, who was supposed to be a premium arm who would log some significant innings, also is out the rest of the spring with a shoulder impingement. In essence, Tech's bullpen depth has been depleted a great deal, and that means guys like Martin need to put together consistent starts. That hasn't been a problem despite dealing with chilly conditions in Kentucky earlier this season and at Kansas this last weekend.
After dealing with tendinitis and discomfort last season, Martin sticks to a rather simple workout regiment - he makes sure he has a ball in his hand each day. He obviously doesn't throw bullpens every day, but Tadlock said if there's a ball around, even the day after he pitches, he's out there playing catch with someone. Tadlock said that simple change has helped his prized righty alleviate soreness - at least so far this season.
"He's throwing every day right now, and I think that has really helped him. It's certainly an old school way of doing things, especially when you have some guys who take the entire next day or two off after they pitch," he said. "He's very diligent about making sure he has a ball in his hand the next day." For the season, Martin continues to tally All-American type of numbers. He has a 5-2 record with a 2.63 ERA in 41 innings, along with 49 strikeouts and 16 walks. Most striking is the difference in opponent batting average from his first two seasons to now. Teams hit .271 against him as a freshman, .259 last year, but this year? Teams are hitting the West Texas native at a low .182 clip.
Why, you ask? Martin's stuff has gotten better. He has better feel for his entire arsenal, and his fastball command and velocity have improved. While he's dipped down to 89-92 at times this season, particularly when it's cold, Tadlock said his velocity has been more 91-93 and up to 94 at times, while also showing the ability to reach back and touch 95 and even 96 at times.
Martin has also made strides with his secondary stuff. The slider continues to be an effective pitch, though Tadlock doesn't notice much different about it so far this season. Meanwhile, he has shown better feel for the changeup, which has resulted in the Red Raiders calling it more this spring.
"I'd say the biggest difference with him is his fastball command. I would say maybe where in the past he was relying too much on his stuff, he's now commanding both sides of the plate much better," Tadlock said. "He's gotten better and better each week. I would say he's been up to 96, and it's been very good.
"I'm not sure there's much different about the slider, but I do think his secondary stuff has been a little crisper so far, " he continued. "The biggest thing with Davis is there are no worries week to week right now. He's 100 percent and he's ready to go and wants the ball every time out. He's always the kind of pitcher who wants more. He doesn't want to stay where he's at on a given day. He works really hard each day, and that type of attitude makes everyone around him that much better."
Davis Martin has already had a career that will long be remembered by Tadlock and Texas Tech fans alike, but there's plenty of time to add more scenes to this movie.
Given his past, perhaps we should be ready for a Martin trilogy.
||D1Baseball.com is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.