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Prospect Smackdown: Eddy Martinez-Esteve vs. Wes Bankston

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Prospect Smackdown: Eddy Martinez-Esteve vs. Wes Bankston

BACKGROUND and INTANGIBLES
EME: Eddy Martinez-Esteve was drafted by the Giants in the second round in 2004, out of Florida State University. He had previously been a third round pick out of high school by the Mariners, but passed up Seattle to attend college. Martinez-Esteve was an outstanding hitter for the Seminoles, but questions about his defense kept him out of the first round. So far, he's had no problems with pro pitching, battering the California League last year and off to a good start in Double-A in 2006. A natural hitter, he puts great effort into improving his offensive skills, but doubts have been raised about his work ethic when it comes to defense. He also irritated the organization by having shoulder surgery during the winter of '04-05 without informing the club.
Bankston: Wes Bankston was drafted by the Devil Rays in the fourth round in 2002, out of high school in Plano, Texas. A football star in high school, Bankston was rated a second-round talent by some clubs. He destroyed the Appalachian League in his pro debut, hitting .301 with 18 homers, but struggled a bit in the Sally League in '03 at age 19. He has been hampered by injuries at times, but when healthy he has generally done well, making a successful transition to Double-A last year. He has a good work ethic. His biggest problem so far has been finding a position.
Advantage: Martinez-Esteve had a more prominent amateur career and greater experience on a larger stage. But Bankston seems to have the edge in work ethic, at least when it comes to defense.

PHYSICALITY and TOOLS
EME: Martinez-Esteve is a righthanded hitter and thrower. He was born July 14, 1983, and stands 6-2, 215 pounds. He was considered somewhat athletic and toolsy early in his college career, but he's lost most of his speed over the last two seasons. Although physically strong, he carries more weight than he used to, harming his overall athleticism. He used to have a strong arm, but shoulder injuries have sapped that and his arm strength is barely adequate now. Martinez-Esteve shows poor instincts on defense, and hasn't shown a lot of desire to improve. His bat, on the other hand, is excellent. Despite the injuries, he still has plus bat speed and power to all fields. He controls the strike zone very well, seldom swings at a bad pitch, and hammers anything mediocre on the outer half of the plate. There was some concern early in his career that he might have trouble with inside fastballs, but this has not been a problem. There has been some talk of making him a first baseman, but in the long run his best position is DH, unless he shows substantial improvement with the glove.
Bankston: Bankston is a righthanded hitter and thrower. He was born November 23, 1983, and stands 6-4, 210 pounds. Early in his career, he was considered very athletic and toolsy, but he's lost most of his speed and will have to work hard to avoid picking up excess weight. He has a very strong arm, good enough for right field or third base. The glut of outfielders in the D-Rays system has moved Bankston out of the outfield. He played first base last year, but is being tried at third base this season, so far with poor results (11 errors already). He has the arm for the hot corner, but needs a lot of work learning the position. With the bat, Bankston came into pro ball as a strict pull hitter, but has shown more whole-field power lately. His strike zone judgment has improved gradually. He feasts on fastballs but has had some problems with sliders and changeups. Bankston has had trouble with injuries, including knee injuries and a sore back. He is currently on the DL with an oblique strain, and may miss a month of action.
Advantage: Both players are righthanded hitters with good power, born within four months of each other. Both have had problems with injuries. Both have lost speed and athleticism over the last few years, due to injuries and weight gain. Both are physically strong and have above average power. Martinez-Esteve is more polished at the plate and has better strike zone judgment. Both have had problems finding a position, but Bankston has shown a greater willingness to work on his defense, not that the results (so far) have been much better. I really doubt he'll be able to remain at third base.

PERFORMANCE
EME: EME entered 2006 with a career mark of .317/.420/.510 at the A-ball level. So far, he is hitting .293/.345/.453 in Double-A this season, solid numbers. His career BB/K/AB ratio is excellent at 114/116/718, and I think he will get hotter as the season progresses, with increased power output. The only complaint you can make about his track record is that he racked up his numbers in the California League.
Bankston: Bankston entered 2006 with a career mark of .288/.370/.490 at the A-ball and Double-A levels. He was hitting .333/.378/.406 before getting hurt last week. Bankston's raw numbers aren't quite as good as Martinez-Esteve's, but he has been a bit younger for his competition.
Advantage: I rate this as even, EME's better raw numbers being balanced out by the age/competition/context factor.

PROJECTION
EME: Baseball Prospectus projects Martinez-Esteve to have a Peak Mean VORP of 36.0, with a Total WARP from 2006 through 2010 of 11.1.
Bankston: Baseball Prospectus projects Bankston to have a Peak Mean VORP of 52.7, with a Total WARP from 2006 through 2010 of 11.4.
Advantage: In plain English, what this means is that the PECOTA system used by Prospectus indicates that Bankston has greater projectability than Martinez-Esteve. This is a function of the fact that he played in Double-A last year while EME was in Single A, and the fact that Bankston is slightly younger. I don't see any reason really to argue with PECOTA in this case.

OVERALL
I think Bankston has an advantage on intangibles. They are pretty much tied on tools, physicality, and performance. EME has better current polish, but Bankston has better projection, at least according to PECOTA.
Personally, I am slightly more confident in EME's bat, but he looks like a DH to me. I'll let you guys make the call on this one with a poll.