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November 14, 2008
  
Stud or Dud: Fernando Martinez
by: Mike Newman on Nov 14, 2008 1:48 AM | Filed under: Articles

Over at Baseball Handyman I run a feature called Stud or Dud? where friend and fellow minor league enthusiast Howard Rudolph and I debate the strengths and weaknesses of controversial prospects. Today, we’ve decided to bring the feature over to MetsGeek as we discuss top prospect Fernando Martinez. I’ll be picking up the stud position while Howard argues that Fernando’s a dud.

F-Mart was the unquestionable gem of the Mets system during both the 2006 and 2007 seasons. An international free agent who signed for $1.4 million, the bar had been set phenomenally high from day one. Entering 2008, his average prospect ranking (APR) of 25.25 earned him a spot as one of the best prospects in all of baseball. However, injuries limited Martinez to ninety games once again, costing him valuable development time. His 2006 and 2007 seasons were both shortened due to injury as well.

Martinez enters 2009 sharing the Mets’ prospect spotlight with Wilmer Flores and even ranked second behind him on my 2009 Mets top prospect list. His overall prospect ranking will undoubtedly drop until he shows both durability and improved power production. Unnecessarily rushed through the Mets organization, a repeat of Double-A at 20 might be just what Martinez needs to really break out in a big way.

Stud?

In a future piece for Baseball Handyman, Martinez will be included as a prospect primed for a big season who may be available in deep dynasty leagues at a discount. F-Mart, like so many other international free agents has been slow to show the 25-30 home run power projection he is expected to produce. Many forget his being just 19 and focus solely on his .281/.338/.429 career stat line.

With that said, his 2008 line of .287/.340/.432 is very impressive for a teenager in Double-A. In comparison, here’s what other Mets stars were doing at the same age:

Player              Lvl     AVE    OBA    SLG
Carlos Beltran    A-/A+    .249   .332   .393
Carlos Delgado       A-    .286   .397   .458
Jose Reyes           A-    .307   .336   .472
David Wright         A-    .266   .364   .401

Not only is Martinez a level or two ahead of the Mets’ uber-talented core at the same age, but his numbers are arguably more impressive as well. With Double-A being the true make-or-break level for most prospects, anything accomplished in low-A ball has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Other metrics also point towards future success. His 20.7 K% and 7.3 BB% show a need for improvement, but also indicate his not being overwhelmed by advanced pitching. His BABIP of .343 was a little high, but nothing that should set off alarm bells, either. Historically, the international prospects who fail miserably at the big league level are players who display a complete lack of plate discipline. F-Mart definitely does not fit this profile.

The argument over F-Mart basically comes down to one thing: age versus level. Depending on how big a factor it is in each person’s mind will determine where F-Mart fits in. Since it is the first thing I consider when looking at prospects, I can not justify an overall drop in prospect ranking beyond the mid-to-low 30s. I also look at his keeping his head above water in Double-A after only 120 or so games as a pro and am left shaking my head in disbelief.

With that said, the Mets need to make better decisions on how to handle Martinez from 2009 on. My timeline for Martinez would look like this:

2009 - First half in Double-A, a Triple-A promotion depends on health and success. Martinez needs to dominate somewhere and should remain in Binghamton until he does.

2010 - Triple-A until September with a possible call-up when rosters expand. This would be the absolute earliest the Mets should even consider giving him a taste of the bigs.

2011 - Opportunity to win a corner outfield spot in spring training. Log consistent at-bats in Triple-A until he’s ready to play everyday in New York. F-Mart is too good a prospect to log bench time at the big-league level.

Dud?

As someone who isn’t a Mets fan, I didn’t know much about Fernando Martinez before starting this piece, other than his being both a very highly ranked and hyped prospect. He’s the consensus number one Mets prospect, so I just assumed he had the statistics to back that up. But you know the saying about when you assume, and this is certainly the case here. I looked at his stats, and the first thing that came to mind was “What am I missing here?” I understand that his being 19-years-old and in Double-A last season is almost unheard of. I also understand his status as the Mets top prospect, which automatically makes him over-hyped. An APR around 25th overall says he’s one of the top prospects in baseball, but why?

It’s easy to see by looking at his statistics that the Mets are rushing him through the minors. Imagine that! The Mets rushing a prospect? Why do the Mets insist on letting F-Mart tread water at higher levels instead of tearing up easier levels prior to promoting when ready to tear up the next level? There’s no doubt F-Mart has the potential to be a star, so why risk rushing him and stunting his development?

F-Mart has also been hampered by injuries. He had the hamate bone removed in his wrist in 2007 and a bad hamstring in 2008 which cost him significant playing time. He’s missed the equivalent of a full season’s worth of at-bats in three years as a pro. Durability should remain a question.

Statistically, between 2007 and 2008 in Double-A Binghamton, Martinez has put up a line of .278/.337/.408 (.745 OPS) in 588 AB with 12 homers, 64 RBI, a K/BB ratio of 124/47 and nine stolen bases. Other than the Sally league in 2006, he hasn’t been on base more than the .340 OBP he posted last year in AA (the 14 at bat rookie league stint last year excluded). He doesn’t walk much, just 69 times in 926 at bats (7.4%), so plate discipline is a concern. Is this really one of the top 25 prospects in the game?

Other than his age, there’s nothing to me which stands out and says “he’s got All-Star written all over him!” To me, that’s what a top 25 prospect signifies. Where is the production to lead one to believe he could be a future All-Star? He doesn’t steal bases, doesn’t have much power, doesn’t make great contact, doesn’t get on base that much; his walk rate‘s unimpressive. For all of you screaming at your monitor and/or cursing at me that he’s ONLY 20 (as of October 10) and has all of the potential to be a superstar player, I agree. I will be looking forward to seeing whether he turns that potential into production, but as of right now I can’t see any justification for him being a top 25 prospect.

Over at Baseball Handyman, I’ve prepared a projection of the shape Fernando Martinez’s career could take. Feel free to check it out.


19 Responses to “Stud or Dud: Fernando Martinez”

  1. Comment posted by littlefallsmets on November 14, 2008 at 3:00 am (#894378)

    Nobody gets called a dud until a minimum of two full seasons playing full-time at their position, okay? Bare minimum.

    We have been over this. In a game where the lessening of the drug culture makes 35 year olds old men again, you have to have a little faith in the young guys again.

    The only way to not get stuck with another goddamned Moises Alou is to show some modicum of faith in the idea that players grow into their positions.

    We have been over this expecting guys to perform immediately or benching them for the corpse of Shawn Green or Luis Castillo, okay?

    We have been doing this for over two seasons now.

    It is an awful and disproven way of thinking.

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  3. Comment posted by Mike Newman on November 14, 2008 at 9:12 am (#894390)

    He has played 229 games over three seasons because of injury. This is approximately two full minor league seasons.

    If he can’t stay healthy, it’s an issue fans need to consider.

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  5. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on November 14, 2008 at 9:57 am (#894404)

    It’s not an issue for fans to consider. It’s an issue for the Mets and their doctors to consider. Like Jose, they need to figure out what is deficient in F!’s routine and fix it. Of course, given the state of the Mets medical team….

    By the way, I find it hard to swallow Howard’s argument when the first thing he does is call every Mets prospect overhyped. Kinda makes me question his objectivity. Sorry if that offends.

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  7. Comment posted by Alex Nelson on November 14, 2008 at 10:08 am (#894415)

    By the way, I find it hard to swallow Howard’s argument when the first thing he does is call every Mets prospect overhyped. Kinda makes me question his objectivity. Sorry if that offends.

    The point of the column is that one person takes the positives while the other takes the negatives. Howard was supposed to formulate the con side of things, regardless of what he actually believes.

  8. Comment posted by MightyJoeOrsulak on November 14, 2008 at 11:02 am (#894528)

    Nonetheless, F! has been unfairly trashed.

    As of now, the only real issue is health. International signings bust because of a total lack of plate discipline. As of now, F! has only shown a disconcerting lack of plate discipline. But given age/level considerations, this is not yet a huge concern.

    As for power, Miggy Cabrera is, easily, one of the 10 best power hitters in all of baseball (probably one of the 5 best) and the best in the American League, excepting perhaps Alex Rodriguez. Given this fact, I can’t even understand why people see 25-30 HR as his ceiling.

    I think it would be useful to repeat this: F! has shown better power at his age than one of the 5 best power hitters in baseball in a much harder league. I can’t understand why people overlook this.

  9. Comment posted by MetsTailgate on November 14, 2008 at 11:41 am (#894569)

    Fernando is still very young, and I like the proposed timeline in the “Stud” section. His injury problems worry me, but Jose Reyes had major injury problems as a youngster and has been very durable in the last 4 major league seasons.

    The Mets recent history with “top prospects” hasn’t been great - seems like there’s a lot more Alex Escobar, Butch Huskey, and Paul Wilson type busts than there are Mike Pelfrey type successes. Let’s hope Fernando can develop his skills, notably his K rate and BB%, over the next couple seasons, just as D-Wright and Reyes did.

    Good stuff!

  10. Comment posted by MightyJoeOrsulak on November 14, 2008 at 11:50 am (#894572)

    Wright, Reyes, and Pelfrey are doing alright. Milledge should rebound, and Murphy seems real; and don’t forget Ka***r.

    That’s a good enough record.

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  12. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on November 14, 2008 at 12:20 pm (#894589)

    Howard was supposed to formulate the con side of things, regardless of what he actually believes.

    It’s one thing to start with the premise that you’re taking the con side. It’s another to start out with “well, he’s obviously overrated because he’s a Met.” I just felt like it was an unnecessary start to the conversation and simply introduced bias as opposed to actual discussion of the prospect.

  13. Comment posted by looney4baseball on November 14, 2008 at 3:16 pm (#894651)

    By the way, I find it hard to swallow Howard’s argument when the first thing he does is call every Mets prospect overhyped. Kinda makes me question his objectivity. Sorry if that offends.

    Howard here…I’m not offended at all, but I really don’t see why my comment should question my objectivity. It was my intention to imply that FMart’s status as a Met gives him greater value than if he played for the Twins. I can only imagine how highly ranked Tim Alderson would be if he were a Met rather than on the Giants. To clear it up, I’ve been a Yankees fan (yes, I know booooo) since 1976 and every single one of their prospects is overhyped as well. Same goes for the Red Sox prospects. I don’t dislike the Mets or any of their players at all. I just call it as I see it, with no intended bias or malice toward any players. I see great potential in FMart, but have doubts about his contact and power. Mike did a great career projection for FMart at his site, baseballhandyman.com and I can’t say I disagree much with how it turned out. You should check it out. Thanks.

  14. Comment posted by MightyJoeOrsulak on November 14, 2008 at 4:23 pm (#894718)

    The most overhyped prospects of the Mets that I can recall since Generation K were Lastings Milledge, Carlos Gomez, and Jose Reyes.

    Reyes turned out OK; the jury’s out on the rest. But I don’t buy the notion that all Mets prospects are overhyped. Look at how little respect Mike Carp gets despite being amongst the top 5 in OBP in his league.

  15. Comment posted by MetsTailgate on November 14, 2008 at 5:41 pm (#894778)

    MightyJoe,

    I feel like Alex Escobar was absurdly hyped - moreso than anyone you listed except maybe Reyes.

    In an earlier comment, somehow I neglected to mention the success of Reyes and Wright as Mets prospects - shows how someone like me (who truly appreciates how great both of them are) is capable of taking even them for granted at times.

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  17. Comment posted by Mike Newman on November 15, 2008 at 5:51 pm (#894852)

    Mets and Yankees prospects have been over hyped for many years. The New York media gets the hype machine going and it works their fans into a frenzy. I remember living in New York when Gregg Jefferies was coming up. He was the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd coming and was going to be the greatest Met EVER!

    Burnitz, Huskey, Escobar, etc. etc. followed the same path.

    Of the Mets current crop, Niese is receiving a RIDICULOUS amount of hype for what he is. Is he a young, talented lefty? Yes. But his 2009 prospect ranking will likely fall in the bottom 3rd of the top 100. Not the future #2 I hear a lot of Mets fans discussing.

    If Wilmer Flores were a Reds prospect would he be receiving the hype he is? Of course not! But as a Mets prospect, he is being talked about non stop by everybody including myself.

    Why do you think I’m writing prospect lists for the Mets, Yanks, Cubs, Dodgers, and Red Sox and not the Pirates, Royals, or Padres? These are the teams people want to know about and it creates hits, hits, hits. That attention can lead to nothing other than hype!

  18. Comment posted by MightyJoeOrsulak on November 16, 2008 at 8:36 pm (#894886)

    Wilmer Flores is showing power that is simply not the domain of 16-year-old humans. He would be the top low-minors prospect regardless of where he played.

    Reyes was hyped in the extreme, but he turned out to be damn good, if not the perennial MVP candidate that NY was pumping him as. Wright, however, was treated with a very reasonable optimism, if I recall correctly.

    Looking at the way F! is being discussed now, would you think he is outperforming Miggy Cabrera and A-Rod at their corresponding levels of development and is being held up by injury issues? Or would you think he’s a 23-year old AA flameout-risk who’s got a chance to be average? What hot-stove outlet is even mentioning F!Mart’s name? Where was the hype for Murphy, Carp, or Evans? Nobody knew about any of them except for people who follow the minor league system, despite their dominating AA at very young ages. Gee is being talked about as a back-end starter despite ripping AA apart at 21. Is that hype? Some people are talking about Niese as a #2 guy, you say. Some people are also trying to run DW out of town. The general tenor of Niese-talk is #3 upside. Pelfrey was hyped, but no more than could be expected with a guy with a 95mph power sinker; and when he struggled in his first season, he became the word’s only washed up 23-year-old overnight. Where’s Brad Holt’s hype? People are talking about a dude with a 95+ mph fastball and a power curve as a set-up-man. No one talks about Thole at all, despite his promising development.

    Some Mets prospects are insanely over-hyped. Jeffries, Gen. K, Escobar, (I’ll take your word for Huskey and Burnitz, as I wasn’t following baseball in those days), Milledge, Gomez, and Guerra.

    Some are justly hyped. Gooden, Straw, Reyes, Wright, and Pelfrey. Mulvey is on pace to become the mid-rotation guy everyone expected, and Niese may do so as well. F!Mart and Flores will probably add to that list.

    Some are inexplicably overlooked. Carp/Murphy/Evans/Gee/and even Holt are not getting their due.

    In other words, there is a Hype continuum in NY, just like any team in baseball. The trend is, IMO, downward, towards reasonable and tempered expectations. The one constant in NY is not hype, but vindictiveness and impatience when players struggle at any point (Milledge, Pelfrey, Reyes, F!Mart, Beltran, and ludicrously even Wright to an extent). And rodents like Francesca talk about players not being able to handle NY when in reality, they don’t want to take the libelous abuse thrown at them by people like Francesca.

  19. Comment posted by MightyJoeOrsulak on November 16, 2008 at 8:39 pm (#894887)

    Carlos Triunfel is another guy who has a strong claim to being the top low-minors prospect in baseball–but he didn’t hit a single HR until he turned 18. Of course, he’s in Seattle, so we don’t hear about him much in NY. But I bet they hype him more than Wilmer! in Seattle.

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  21. Comment posted by Mike Newman on November 16, 2008 at 11:53 pm (#894893)

    MightyJoe,

    Your overlooked guys have a lot in common. They just don’t have the pedigree or projection to be taken seriously as big time prospects. Holt is doing his best to break from that, but he’s still pretty much a one pitch guy.

    Flores is a freak and you are right on the money about the power he IS showing versus the power simply being projection. However, I’m expecting him to be included in the top 30 on many top 100 lists and I can’t help but think his ranking would be lower if he played for the Padres. Every baseball chat I read has 2-3 questions about Flores spurred on by his being a Met.

    Did you see my F-Mart projection? He will be up too early to be an impact guy for at least a short time. Will the same thing happen to him that happened to Milledge? What if he takes 3 years to bat .290 with some power? Will he be exiled before then?

  22. Comment posted by MightyJoeOrsulak on November 17, 2008 at 1:31 pm (#895073)

    I very much hope not, but I have a feeling that the absurd degree of impatience shown to Pelfrey and Milledge will be tripled for F!Mart. For his sake and ours, I hope he breaks out soon.

    As for Wilmer and Holt, even if they are overblown, I don’t see it as that big an issue. The greater truth here is that they had monster freshman campaigns. There are varying reports on Holt’s power curve; and I’ve even heard some call it a plus pitch already. If this is true, then he is being sold astoundingly short. I’m all for keeping our heads cool and maintaining perspective, but I see no reason why we can’t do this while simply enjoying the fact that one of the most dominant pitchers in A- ball and one of the offensive phenoms of the season happened to be Mets.

    I don’t deny that enthusiasm for guys like Murphy, Carp, and Gee should be tempered for the very reasons you give; but what I am saying is that if New York were the hype machine that some claim it is–and that it seems to have been back in the day–more people would be playing up their defying projections and putting up A prospect performances in a very advanced league. I’m saying that this reasonable and cautious attitudes surrounding them is evidence that the idea of NY Met hype is somewhat overblown. Thing’s ain’t what they used to be when Escobar was going to be our savior despite 8% BB and 35% Ks in AAA and numerous other red flags. And let us not forget Rico Brogña

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  24. Comment posted by Mike Newman on November 17, 2008 at 3:50 pm (#895168)

    Amen MightyJoe,

    I agree with everything you said. However, in winter league chats, I hear Murphy mentioned every which way. He’s one of the 5 most watched guys in the AFL and I think it’s because of his being a Met. He’s a lot like Kelly Johnson who was rarely mentioned as a Braves prospect and it’s the only way I can explain the difference.

  25. Comment posted by MightyJoeOrsulak on November 18, 2008 at 12:41 am (#895332)

    I’ve looked at Kelly Johnson as a fascinating Murphy Comp as well. Their production in the advanced minor leagues is similar, though their career arcs are slightly different (appropriately, since Murphy is a college draft). I don’t know too much about the offensive environment of the International League vs. the Eastern League, so I can’t right now make any real comps, but it looks like both have similar skill sets. They are both very solid all-round hitters with above average contact ability, power, and patience, and they both have a curious susceptibility to the strikeout nonetheless (although Murphy’s BB/K ratio in the AFL–before they decided to stop playing him–was 2/1). Both were converted into 2nd basemen because of their offensive profiles; neither really had a specialty position previously, and neither is particularly good defensively. They even have similar body types (Murph 6-3 210, Johnson 6-1 205). Both flew under the radar for much of their professional careers.

    Johnson had a more explosive breakout AAA season and Murphy’s opening salvo in the Majors was better than any full season Johnson has put up.
    I would say that part of the scrutiny around Murphy is based on his NY exposure, and part of it is the product of how the kid came out of nowhere to become one of the best offensive performers for the Mets during his stint with the team. Hype overcompensation if you ask me.

    I shouldn’t deny NY hype; it’s there. But I still say that NY hype itself is somewhat overhyped.

  26. Comment posted by MightyJoeOrsulak on November 18, 2008 at 12:50 am (#895333)

    BTW, where are those chats you mention that talk about Murphy so much? I’m curious about what non-Metscentrics think about him.

    A better way for me to have expressed the Brogña fiasco is that it’s important that he be remembered before he is forgotten.

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