Fernando Martinez-Don’t Give Up On Him

Ideally the Mets would loved to pencil in Fernando Martinez as the replacement for the injured Carlos Beltran this upcoming season. Ideally the Mets would have loved to have played Fernando Martinez everyday in the meaningless second half of last season. Ideally the Mets would love Fernando Martinez to just stay healthy for one entire season. Oh if we lived in a perfect world.

To say the short career of the 21-year old Martinez has been rocky thus far is an understatement. He missed time in 2006 with a bone bruise in his hand and a knee sprain; in 2007 with a broken hamate bone in his right hand; in 2008 with recurring trouble with his right hamstring; and in 2009 his season ended in July with right knee surgery. This is not the script Omar Minaya was hoping for after signing Martinez to a $1.4M signing bonus in 2005.

With all of that being said, we have to remember Martinez is just 21, and despite his injuries, his bat still makes him an elite OF prospect. We have to understand he played in High A at 17, AA at 18, AAA and MLB at the age of 20. That is a remarkable ascension for a kid learning to play the game of baseball and dealing with a number of injuries. Martinez oozes the word “potential”. His plus power and raw hitting ability are the reasons for optimism and hope for the Mets organization. While his injuries have been the main storyline of his career, swings like this make fans, the front office, coaches, and scouts remember what Fernando Martinez can become.

For fans who have ridden off Martinez, let’s compare the minor-league careers #’s of Martinez and, the highly touted Phillies prospect, Dominic Brown:

Martinez 274 1102 311 65 13 30 132 80 226 .282 .338 .446 .785
Brown 331 1250 360 59 17 28 164 154 237 .288 .368 .430 .798

Brown is one year older than Martinez, and still has not taken a single swing in AAA, much less the big leagues. Last season Brown played in the Florida State league at the age of 20, the same league Martinez played in as a 17 year old. Their career #’s are eerily similar. Brown is considered a top 20 overall prospect in the minor-leagues.

There are still scouts who view Martinez as an elite OF prospect, projectprospect.com’s Adam Foster says Martinez is “comfortably” a top 25 overall prospect, and there are probably some scouts who are starting to doubt if he will ever live up to the hype. Does Martinez deserve the skepticism, yes, he has showed glimpses of greatness, but injuries have slowed down his development. Injury prone is a label that will follow Martinez until he proves his skeptics otherwise.

Here’s another taste of what Martinez can do. Let’s hope for Mets fans, that 2010 will be the year Martinez stays healthy and turns potential into reality.

Hopefully this is a sign of things to come this year, as Martinez goes 5-6 with a double, a 2-run homerun, and 5 rbi’s, to lead Escogido to a Dominican Winter League playoff win over Gigantes 13-4.