#2 – OF Fernando Martinez

Bats/Throws: L/R

Height/Weight: 6’1”/200

Acquired: NDFA 2005

Born: 10/10/88 (Rio San Juan, DR)

2009 Rank: #1

Why Ranked Here: Last year, Fernando Martinez was the top position prospect on this list, but at the time of the ranking, I felt it would be his last at the top of the list based on the logic that either Martinez would accumulate enough big-league time to exhaust his prospect eligibility, or have such a poor year in the minors that he did not deserve the number one spot. As it happened, neither of those things came to pass exactly in that manner. Martinez played well enough in Buffalo that he could have held onto his number one prospect position, but for more injuries, the same issue which has haunted him in each of his professional seasons.  Slightly ironically it is his most recent knee injury which cut his season short and denied him the necessary MLB time to exhaust his rookie eligibility, which lands him back on this list.

Aside from injury, the basic problem for Martinez in the big leagues was the same problem he has had in the minor leagues:  patience and pitch recognition.  First and foremost, even while raking at AAA, Martinez was not a very patient hitter. His walk rate of 5.79% in AAA was just a touch better then his 5.0 in the bigs.  Martinez’s best walk rates as a professional in a US professional league was 7.72% in 2007 with Binghamton.  If he is going to be a successful corner outfielder, Martinez simply must learn to recognize pitches better and draw walks at the very least, an average MLB level. Of course, playing more games will help him greatly in this endeavor.  He is still looking for his first season with more than 90 games played, and 2010 will be his fifth attempt.

Take a look at his games played by season along with Martinez’s power production in each year:

Year Games HR
2006 75 10
2007 63 4
2008 90 8
2009 74 9

Major league left-handers gave Martinez fits (.158/.200/.158) in 19 AB, but it was just 19 AB after all. Martinez did not own extreme L./R in the minors, but he could not help himself and lay off the breaking pitches at the big-league level.

Despite 100 lousy at bats as a 20-year-old Martinez is still a very fine prospect. He owns a clean swing from the left side with plus bat speed that generates easy power from left-center all the way to the right-field corner. Despite his aggressive approach, Martinez has never struck out more than 20% of the time in any season. That lends some hope that he will be able to become more patient in the coming years.  He has the tools to be a star offensively.

Martinez, who played exclusively center field in his first three professional seasons, began the move to an outfield corner in 2009. With Buffalo, Martinez played 23 games in left field and 14 games in right field. With the Mets, Martinez played in 17 games in the corners and eight games in centerfield. That is not a large enough sample for the advanced stats tell us much of anything meaningful. However, Martinez held his own in center and on the corners. He is not blessed with blazing speed, and his future home will be in the corners where his arm would play in right. He should settle in, at least early in his career, as an above average defender in a corner outfield spot.

The defense is great, but to be the star that the Mets want Martinez to be he must first learn to keep himself healthy all year.  Once he’s on the field, he will have a chance to become more selective, which will lead to an increase in his power output as well.

2009: Martinez, like most of his Buffalo bisons teammates, got off to a slow start in 2009. Martinez hit just .233/.288/.411 in 18 games in April.  However, that turned into a scorching May in which he hit .337/.378/.663 with seven doubles and seven home runs in 24 games. Martinez’s hot streak in AAA combined with Ryan Church’s injury, earned Martinez his first promotion to the big leagues on May 26. Playing as a 20-year-old, Martinez did not hit much in his big-league debut. Actually he barely hit (.176/.242/.275) T all, but his BABIP was an crazy low .197.  Looking for a happy take-away from Martinez’s 2009: try his nearly 14% extra-base hit percentage in AAA, his highest mark of his career.

Dr. Pangloss Says: Plus Batspeed yields: Power + Average + Learn to take a walk  = Star in RF

Debbie Downer Says: Or Martinez never learns to stay healthy or never learns to take a walk and never reaches the status of average regular.  (It is this harsh, if relatively unlikely downside that keeps Martinez from the top spot.)

Projected 2010 Start: AAA Buffalo

MLB Arrival/Return: The day after the Mets next OF injury.  While Carlos Beltran is expected back in May, the last time Angel Pagan played over 100 games in a season was 2005 with Norfolk, back when the Tides were a Mets affiliate.  Jason Bay has been durable and productive, while Jeff Francouer has been merely durable in his career.  Barring an injury to himself, Martinez will be garnering regular at bats in Queens and not the Queen City before long before July 4.

2006 A 45 192 64 14 2 5 15 36 7 4 .333 .389 .505 7.11 17.06 9.95 .388
A+ 30 119 23 4 2 5 6 24 1 1 .193 .254 .387 4.62 18.46 8.46 .198
A-Ball Total 75 311 87 18 4 10 21 60 8 5 .280 .323 .460 6.16 17.60 9.38 .317
2007 AA 60 236 64 22 1 4 20 51 3 4 .271 .336 .377 7.72 19.69 10.42 .331
2008 AA 86 352 101 19 4 8 27 73 6 2 .287 .340 .432 6.99 18.91 8.03 .339
2008 DWL 41 153 48 7 5 6 14 32 4 1 .314 .376 .542 8.14 18.60 10.47 .362
2009 AAA 45 176 51 16 2 8 11 33 2 1 .290 .337 .540 5.79 17.37 13.68 .316
2009 MLB 29 91 16 6 0 1 5 14 2 0 .176 .242 .275 5.00 14.00 7.00 .197
2009 DWL 14 47 9 1 0 0 4 13 1 0 .191 .264 .213 7.41 24.07 1.85 .257

There are 12 comments

  1. theperfectgame

    Cut the suspense Toby, who’s number 1?!?

    My money’s on Shawn Bowman.

    Seriously, though, I’m a little surprised to see Ike sneak into the #1 spot, but like I said, I think a case could be made for any ordering of the Mets’ top 3.

    Now stay healthy, Fernando!

    1. Toby Hyde

      Exactly. You’re just too damn reasaonable. I think you could construct any argument for ordering the top 3 in any way, but this is the way I chose to do it for reasons that I hope I made clear in my writeups.

    2. acerimusdux

      I’ve had the same top 3 in some order since about August, when Ike had really started to break out in AA, while Holt had started to struggle and fall a bit.

      Even by end of season, I would have had Davis third, but with what I’ve seen this spring, I think he’s moved into #1 (or #2 behind Mejia, who also looks great so far). At this point, I think Davis actually may have the higher ceiling than Martinez. He’s just gotten stronger every year. He’s starting to look like a 35 HR guy to me.

      Fernando looks like not as high a ceiling as I once thought, and his defense hasn’t looked too good, I think he’s strictly a corner OF, and not a star there. But he’s shown good progress with his ability to handle the bat, looks like he’ll hit for good average at this point, and maybe not as much power as I once thought, but still solid power, maybe 25 HR.

  2. TheBigStapler

    I thought for sure that Martinez would be ranked #1. I suppose maybe the ranking reveals the Toby Hyde process somewhat, which weighs a prospect’s floor pretty heavily against his ceiling.

    Ike Davis seems prepared to be at least an average contributor at 1B while Fernando Martinez, a potential superstar in the outfield, still needs more tangible results to prove he can be a regular. Same with Mejia. Curious!

    1. theperfectgame

      TBS, do you see Ike’s ceiling as that much lower than Fernando’s? I ask because I think they’re pretty close in terms of offensive potential.

      1. TheBigStapler

        Ike Davis strikes out a lot and at his advanced age, might not see much more improvement. He also has serious L/R splits. In my very amateur scouting opinion, Davis’ long swing limits his contact ability, making him more vulnerable to inside pitching. Again, my scouting opinions can’t be taken too seriously.

        Also, Martinez plays the OF, which is more valuable than 1B.

      2. TheBigStapler

        Also, I think the age difference matters with regards to ceiling. Look where Ike was when he was Martinez’ age! Certainly not dominating AAA.

      3. acerimusdux

        I think it’s debatable at this point. The age difference is still 19 months in Fernando’s favor, with both at about the same level now, but Davis has been improving so rapidly, I’m not sure he’s not about to blow past Fernando.

        Davis just gets stronger every year, he’s turning into a beast. If I’m right, and he breaks out in the next four months like I think he will, he’ll end up alongside Smoak in the discussion for top 1B prospect, well ahead of guys like Freeman and Alonso.

        And Fernando hasn’t looked that great defensively. If he ends up an average corner, and Davis a +5 1B, there ends up being no difference really in positional value.

        So I think it’s getting to where it’s at least debatable.

      4. theperfectgame

        Yeah, I mean, I guess I just don’t see it as being as cut and dried as others here. As I said yesterday, in my own little amateur ranking system, I had 1. Martinez, 2. Davis, 3. Mejia, but I saw (and still see) it as very, very close.

      5. acerimusdux

        Yeah, for me he’s ahead of both, I just think it will take a few more months of numbers for that to become more the conventional wisdom.

        In Alonso’s case, he was better than Davis in college, and had the better smoother swing coming out of college, but clearly has a lower ceiling. I think the high pick and near universal praise for his swing and approach has led some to exaggerate the ceiling there. Still he’s a very good pure hitter, uses all fields, and walks about as often as he strikes out. He’s just a very safe high floor guy.

        Freeman’s ceiling I think has also been exaggerated. I thought he was supposed to be an athletic, projectable 6′ 5″, but seeing him this ST, he looked more like a not especially projectible 6′ 2″. I just don’t see big power projection there. He’s another good pure hitter, who doesn’t strike out, but looks more like a future Alonso. Physically, he seems closer to Stefan Welch than to Ike.

  3. NickM

    Gotta admit, Davis being #1 is a shocker. His ceiling is what, probably an above average regular? While his floor is that of a platooning 1B due to the L/R splits and strikeouts.

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