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:
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.