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Prospect Retrospective: Pedro Martinez

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Pedro Martinez, 1993
Pedro Martinez, 1993
J.D. Cuban, Getty Images

A reader requested that we examine the prospect history of Pedro Martinez, so here goes.

Prospect Retrospective: Pedro Martinez

Pedro Martinez was born October 25, 1971 in Manoguayabo, Dominican Republic. He came from a baseball family, with both his father and older brother Ramon being pitchers. Ramon signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1984 and emerged as one of their best prospects by 1987. Pedro followed his sibling into the organization in 1988, but at the time he wasn't considered a huge prospect, being undersized at a skinny (if athletic) 5-9; remember, scouting bias against small right-handers was even stronger back then. Pedro spent two seasons in the Dominican Summer League building his arm strength and stamina.

Martinez came to North America in 1990 and pitched for Great Falls in the Pioneer League, posting a 3.62 ERA with an 82/40 K/BB in 77 innings with 74 hits allowed at age 18. He was named the Number Three prospect in the league by Baseball America, with teammates Raul Mondesi and Ron Walden at #1 and #2. Although he was just 5-10 at this point and somewhere around 140-150 pounds, he was getting his fastball well into the 90s and showing promise with his changeup and occasional curve. I would probably have given him something like a strong Grade B- or a Grade B at that stage, but that was a long time before I got into prospect analysis professionally so it is hard to say in retrospect.

After an outstanding spring training in 1991, Martinez opened the season at High-A Bakersfield in the California League, quite a jump for a 19-year-old. He was excellent, posting a 2.05 ERA with an 83/19 K/BB in 61 innings, earning a promotion to Double-A San Antonio. He was even better there, posting a 1.76 ERA with a 74/31 K/BB in 77 innings with just one homer allowed. He made six starts for Triple-A Albuquerque to finish the season, posting a 3.66 ERA with a 35/16 K/BB in 39 innings with only 28 hits, very credible for his age and in the Pacific Coast League. He was named Top Prospect in the California League by BA and ranked fifth in the Texas League. His heater was in the mid-90s now and his secondaries were coming along nicely, especially the changeup. He would be at least a Grade A- at this point and possibly a straight A.

Martinez spent most of 1992 at Triple-A Albuquerque, where he went 7-6, 3.81 with a 124/57 K/BB in 125 innings with 104 hits allowed. He made his major league debut with eight innings over two outings in September, with an 8/1 K/BB. He was ranked the Number Three prospect in the PCL and entered '93 as one of the top pitching prospects in the game, again ranking as an A- or possible A considering the context in which he was pitching.

The Dodgers broke Martinez in as a reliever in 1993, with 63 relief outings and a couple of starts resulting in a 10-5 record, 2.61 ERA, and a 119/57 K/BB in 107 innings with just 76 hits allowed. Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda famously thought that Martinez was too small and slight of stature to hold up as a full-time starting pitcher. He was traded to the Montreal Expos for Delino DeShields before the '94 season began.

As you no doubt know, the Expos made him a full-time starter and he thrived, beginning with a strong run in the strike-shortened '94 season. He was solid in '95 and '96, then emerged as one of the best pitchers in baseball in 1997 at age 25, with a 17-8, 1.90 ERA and a 305/67 K/BB in 241 innings and a Cy Young Award.

Traded to the Red Sox as the Expos dumped salary for '98, Martinez began a superb run over the next six years, winning two more Cy Young Awards and posting ridiculously good statistics considering the high-offense environment of the late 90 and early 2000s. His arm did give out eventually and he began fading in 2004 at age 32, but it was a remarkable run at his peak. His WAR values beginning in 1994: 3.5, 3.3, 5.2, 8.8, 6.7, 12.1 (1999), and 10.1.

From 1997 through 2003, Martinez went 118-36 with a 2.20 ERA (213 ERA+).

Overall, Pedro Martinez went 219-100 in his career, with a 2.93 ERA, 154 ERA+, with a 3154/760 K/BB in 2827 innings with 2221 hits allowed, 89.4 career WAR. His career WAR value places him 18th all-time, in the neighborhood of Bob Gibson (92.9), Fergie Jenkins (91.0), Don Sutton (89.8), Curt Schilling (86.1), and Mike Mussina (85.6).

As we have seen, Martinez was an excellent pitching prospect but even the optimists could not have expected what he brought to the game when his skills were at the best. Not bad for a small right-hander who was once known as Ramon Martinez's little brother.