Amidst a flurry of minor league moves Tuesday morning, the Nationals announced they were extending major league spring training invitations to three of their non-40-man players: right-hander Rafael Martin, catcher Sandy Leon and outfielder Corey Brown.
For Martin, the invitation to major league camp is a monumental step. Six years ago, Martin was working for a storm drain construction company in California, playing baseball once a week and beer league softball on the weekends. Becoming a professional pitcher was not just an impossibility, it wasn’t even a thought. Until one trip to Mexico changed all of that. He put together a nice season as the closer at Double-A in 2011 (1.77 ERA) and a solid performance in the Arizona Fall League. You can read more about Martin’s incredible path to the Nationals here.
Leon’s invitation gives the Nationals at least five different catchers in major league camp after they added Jhonatan Solano and Derek Norris to the 40-man roster earlier this offseason to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Leon is considered by many to be the best pure receiver in the organization and his defensive skills are raved about from coaches and pitchers alike. He hit .251 with a .312 on-base percentage and .362 slugging percentage in 2011 with Single-A Potomac.
Brown was taken off the Nationals 40-man roster earlier this offseason after an injury-marred first season in the organization. Brown, who came to the Nationals with Henry Rodriguez as a part of the Josh Willingham trade with Oakland, struggled with an ankle injury in spring training and had a tough time finding his rhythm at Triple-A last year. He ultimately began to put things together toward the end of the season, finishing the Triple-A season with a .235 average, .326 OBP but .402 slugging percentage with 14 home runs. He earned himself a September call-up but had just three at-bats before he was sidelined for the remainder of the season with a staph infection in his right knee.