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.
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.
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.