MLB’s 25 Most Improved Players Prospects for 2016 Momentum

#11. Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals

2015 WAR: 4.0
2014 WAR: 0.1
WAR Improvement: 3.9

In 2014, Carlos Martinez made 57 appearances for the St. Louis Cardinals but started only seven games midway through the year. During that brief stretch, he struggled to work his way deep into the proceedings, pitching only 32.1 innings while posting a 4.45 ERA and 1.64 WHIP.

Nonetheless, he transitioned into a new role for 2015, becoming a permanent fixture in the St. Louis rotation without skipping a beat. Even with the increased workload, his velocity remained near the top of the heap — Martinez’s average fastball was 95.2 mph, which left him behind only Garrett Richards, Yordano Ventura, Gerrit Cole and Matt Harvey.

But what makes this 24-year-old special isn’t just his knack for dialing up the heat, despite his ability to hit triple digits when the adrenaline is pumping through his veins. He also managed to limit his free passes while inducing more batters into groundouts than ever before.

Still, Martinez will have a little bit of trouble matching 2015’s exploits until he develops a bit more movement on his pitches. He allows too much hard contact to sniff Cy Young contention during his second full season as a starter.

He’ll remain plenty valuable to the Cardinals’ cause, but the smart bet is expecting a slight WAR regression.