The Fernando Martinez Journey
As all prospect watchers are aware, the New York Mets put former top prospect Fernando Martinez on waivers yesterday, essentially giving up on a guy who was supposed to be a star. Constant injuries have been a big factor in his failure to develop, although he was also moved very aggressively through the farm system. The Houston Astros claimed him on waivers his afternoon.
I thought it would be interesting to go back and track Martinez's trek through the Mets system.
Here are the comments I wrote about Martinez in past editions of the Baseball Prospect Book, beginning with the 2007 edition.
Fernando Martinez Comment, 2007 Baseball Prospect Book
A Dominican signed in 2005 for $1.4 million, Martinez has been pushed VERY aggressively by the Mets. His tools are very strong, and the fact that he played full-season ball at age 17 is remarkable. He looked great in the Sally
League, but was overmatched by the more polished pitchers in the Florida State League, which is hardly unexpected. I saw Martinez in the Arizona Fall League. His athleticism is impressive, and he is more polished than most players his age; making an attempt to work the count, albeit not very successfully at times. He is a fine defensive outfielder, with a strong arm and good range, although he may lose much of his speed as he matures physically.
At this stage, the age and tools are more important than the raw statistics, and there's nothing wrong with the numbers, all things considered. The Mets do not have a very good track record with similar players, and that concerns me. Grade B+.
Martinez Comment, 2008 Book:
Fernando Martinez is mostly youth and New York hype at this point. The latter we should dismiss. The former you can't overlook: he has been extremely young for his leagues, probably too young. He didn't hit well in the Eastern League last year, with a -9 percent OPS. However, he was in Double-A at age 18 with only 76 pro games under his belt. He was also bothered by a hand injury that ended up costing him half the season, so we need to cut him some slack on the numbers. Most scouts say that Martinez is going to be an outstanding hitter, for both average and power. A few doubters believe that his power potential is overstated, but even most of them conceded that he should hit for average and provide at least moderate pop. Although he is a good athlete, he is a poor defensive outfielder at this point, due to lack of experience.
If I were the Mets, I would send him back to Double-A in '08 and make sure he gets 500 at-bats, no promotions unless he's hitting .450 or something. He needs to consolidate his progress, improve his command of the strike zone, show more power and polish up the glovework. Grade-wise, I will go with a Grade B+ rating right now. His youth and tools are Grade A/A- quality, but the injuries, poor defense, and questions about power add enough uncertainty into the mix to drop his rating a notch.
Martinez Comment, 2009 Book:
Fernando Martinez has been riding the "young for his league" wave to high prospect rankings for three years now. Aside from his birthday, his performance has not been especially impressive. He hasn't been bad, but he has shown only marginal power, has below average strike zone judgment and keeps getting hurt. He improved some last year, raising his Eastern League OPS from -4 percent to +4 percent, thanks to somewhat better power production. Optimists still see him as a guy who will hit .300+ with lots of power and a high OBP once he matures. Pessimists see him more as a .260-.280 hitter with moderate power and a mediocre OBP, a tweener type who doesn't run well enough for center, but who won't hit enough to start at a corner. There are still a huge range of possible outcomes here, without any clear indication about which way things will fall. At this time I can't rate him higher than Grade B+, and even that grade involves a lot of projection. Eventually he's going to have to put up some numbers to match the scouting reports.
Martinez Comment, 2010 Book
People are starting to get down on Fernando Martinez. Ironically, he actually started to live up to his potential last year, driving the ball for power more than previously, posting a solid +21 percent OPS in the International League and setting a career high in slugging percentage. Keep in mind that he's just 21 years old, and that the Mets have rushed him too quickly. Martinez didn't hit well during a 29-game trial with the Mets, but given his lack of experience this is hardly damning. I'm more concerned with his inability to stay healthy: he keeps getting hurt, this time going out for the season in July with a knee injury. He's never played a full season, which is another factor impacting his development. Martinez needs to get healthy, and he needs 500 at-batsin Triple-A. He still has the ability to be a very impressive player, even a star, and he started to show that last year. Keep in mind that he's the equivalent of a college junior entering 2010. If a college sophomore got drafted, went to Triple-A, and hit .290/.337/.540 in 45 games, they'd be praised to high-heaven as a prospect. Grade B+.
Martinez Comment, 2011 book:
Fernando Martinez had another season with mixed results in 2010. He showed good power in the International League, but his batting average and OBP tailed off, and in general his skills didn't really improve. He was bogged down by injuries again, this time a bad hamstring in May and knee problems in August. This is the second season in a row that was cut short early by a bad knee. He is still just 22 years old, but the combination of injuries, plate discipline issues, and over-aggressive promotions by the old Mets front office has stalled his development. At this point, grading him is quite difficult. I've been patient with his grades, but his skills except for power just haven't come around yet. It isn't too late for them to do so, but his status as an elite prospect is clearly slipping, and a downgrade in his rating is unavoidable. Grade B-.