Can Fernando Martinez Succeed Now?

by Jimmy Hascup

Huston Street to the Mets?  Nope.  Jermaine Dye and Bobby Jenks to Flushing?  Nahh.  Matt Holliday, Shea (now Citi-Field) bound?  No thanks.  Jason Bay to NY?  Nope.  These are just some of the potential pieces the Mets could have acquired in the past year if they would have been willing to deal Fernando Martinez.  Not even a deal for one of baseball’s best pitchers, Johan Santana, could be worth Fernando Martinez, according to the Mets.  Mets GM Omar Minaya has insisted over the duration of his tenure that Martinez was untouchable. 

Of the Mets’ best prospects over the past four years, three of them were outfielders: Carlos Gomez, Lastings Milledge and Fernando Martinez.  The first two are no longer with the club, but as Minaya has repeatedly maintained, Fernando Martinez is going to be something special and he’s worth more in a Mets uniform then somewhere else.

With all that being said, Fernando Martinez was promoted to the Majors on May 26th due to Jose Reyes and Ryan Church being placed on the disabled list.  The crown jewel of the Mets’ farm system, Martinez has gone 0-7 with an RBI (as of 5/28), while playing right field.  However, he was having his most productive minor league season to date in the International League (Triple-A) with a .291 average, 8 HR (4 in the last 10 games), 28 RBI, .337 OBP, .552 SLG and 2 SBs in 165 ABs. 

Though the Mets have been adamant about keeping Fernando Martinez in New York, does this belief really translate into fantasy stardom?  Is Fernando Martinez really going to be that great?

It’s important to remember that F-Mart signed with the Mets when he was 16 years old, four years ago.  So, he’s still only 20.  He’s been selected to both the 2007 and 2008 Futures Games and has been ranked the Mets’ best prospect in 2008 and 2009.  Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus tabbed Martinez the 44th best prospect in baseball, while Keith Law of ESPN (including only those who have signed professional contracts) ranks Martinez as the 16th best prospect.

Skills: To me, Fernando Martinez epitomizes the definition of what I’m terming a “scouts’ prospect.” He has never put up the numbers of a true top-tier prospect, until now, yet he grades highly across the board.  In other words, his numbers don’t truly tell the whole story of his potential, however scouts and experts who have been given a chance to watch Martinez drool over his swing, his quick bat and power potential.  The rest of us, just haven’t seen it in his production.  This definitely makes for an interesting and difficult assessment of Martinez’s future abilities.

The biggest issue that clouds Martinez’ prospect status is the fact that he’s been injured in every season he’s played thus far.  He has never reached 400 ABs in a season (the most was 366 last year), nor has he ever played more than 90 games before.  He has 30 career home runs in the minor leagues in 1,094 ABs, which isn’t exactly showing any power potential.  His career high was 8, last season, in 352 ABs in Double-A, but this year he already had 8 in triple-A.  Could this be the power that scouts have been preaching would come ever since the Mets signed him? 

When you look at Martinez’ numbers, nothing really jumps out at you, until this season’s statistics.  He is a career .282 hitter with 19 steals, 132 RBI, .337 OBP and .446 SLG.  Last season was his best to date, but this year he was definitely bound to trump those numbers.  He already had 15 doubles (19 last season), 8 HR (8 last year), 28 RBI (43 last year) and a much better slugging percentage (.552 now vs. .432 last year). I find it truly incredible that experts all over baseball still think he’s got massive potential, even though his numbers wouldn’t suggest so.  This year in Triple-A could have been the year he truly broke-out and showed the baseball world the reason for his untouchable status.  Now it can be said that he was rushed to the Majors.  

Martinez’ power stroke is definitely a work in progress.  What hasn’t developed is his eye at the plate.  Last year he had 73 strikeouts in 352 ABs vs. 27 walks.  This year, in Triple-A, he had 31 strikeouts vs. 11 walks.  He’s going to need to take the next step at becoming more patient at the plate if he’s going to stick with the big club.  Martinez has the whole organization on his side, but he’s going to have to hit, at least a little bit, to stave off Ryan Church when he returns from the DL.  It might be too early to expect consistent production from F-Mart.

Future: Martinez’ optimistic future lies in the fact that he’s always played in a league where the competition was older and had more experience.  He played in Double-A at age 18, and reached Triple-A this year but was still just 20-years old.  It’s going to take time for Martinez to develop.  Will he be able to show some promise during his stint in the Major Leagues, in order to make his promotion permanent? 

Personally, I think he’s been rushed.  He needs more time to develop in Triple-A to refine his pitch recognition, translate his power potential into real power numbers on the field and show the skeptics he isn’t going to be injury-ridden throughout his career.  With that being said, it’s not completely outlandish to think he can’t show some progress in these areas with the Mets now. 

The problem is that New York isn’t exactly the best place for developing prospects.  New Yorkers want immediate production; patience isn’t exactly an adjective that describes the fan base.  F-Mart needs to show something now or he’ll be back in Buffalo before long.

What do you guys think?  Does he stay with the Mets for the rest of the season?  Or was he rushed?  Do you want him on your team?

To read the previous article, click here.


  1. fijis says:

    I have a hard time getting excited about somebody with a 6.3BB% (in AAA) this season. A .337 OBP doesn’t sound MLB-ready to me.

  2. Jimmy says:

    yeah I agree. He may have tools, but I doubt he’s ready for the big show.

  3. RollTideTaylor says:

    He could be a player in about two years or late next season.

  4. Keith says:

    Another overrated Mets prospect. They seem to grow on trees!

  5. Ben says:

    As a Mets fan, no way he stays in the bigs no matter how good his production is. When Church returns from injury, he’ll most likely retake his starting job (both lefty hitters, anyway, so no platoon option), or at least platoon with Tatis. I’d say, given how good Church was for the Mets early last year, there’s very little chance of F-Mart kicking him to the bench during a 2-week promotional stint with the club.

    F-Mart could conceivably stay on as a reserve outfielder, perhaps relegating the under-utilized Jeremy Reed or even the questionably-benched Daniel Murphy to AAA, but I think the Mets front office would agree with me that such a decision would be a complete waste. They may be rushing him up now in the face of injuries to a good portion of our starting lineup, but it’s definitely better to give him consistent playing time in AAA instead of keeping him on the bench to give Gary Sheffield the occasional day off.

    If Sheffield flops later this year, and becomes mortal again to the point at which he’s no longer a viable starter, it’s quite possible that F-Mart shall return, especially if he continues raking in AAA.

    I’d say the Mets are almost certainly planning on F-Mart as a starting OF in 2010, either in right (who knows what happens with Church this year) or left (no way Sheffield is still here next year, unless he continues this pace and belts 30 homers). Now that Mets fans have gotten a taste, the ownership will feel compelled to not leave him in AAA again next season, for better or worse. I’m hoping we don’t need him the rest of the way, and he can spend his time getting more disciplined in the minors (perhaps under the watchful tutelage of Jose Valentin).

  6. Jimmy says:

    Ben, I agree with you that Martinez will most likely not stay up in the big leagues this time around. However, he will if he hits. Jerry Manuel does not really like Ryan Church, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see F-Mart given every opportunity to win the job. I think Church is solid, but the Mets have frowned on him a bit. I guess we could also see him play some first base too, if Murphy flops and Martinez does well. Martinez also offers some flexibility in the OF, whereas Church is a just a RFer. It will be interesting to see how he does the rest of the way. I don’t think we can underestimate the chance Martinez will have if he produces.

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