Jenrry Mejia responded to his promotion to AAA by going 8 innings on Monday night, yielding 1 earned run (a homerun) on 5 hits and 1 walk. He struck out 9, and induced 10 groundouts and 2 flyouts. He appears to be the favorite to both start on Saturday against the Cubs and to be the ace of the Continue reading
Tag Archives: Fernando Martinez
It’s hard to believe that the Mets haven’t won back-to-back games since June 23rd when they did it against Detroit. Yet, the streak continued on Sunday with a 6-5 loss to Philadelphia. The Mets did fight back but unfortunately, and so customarily, they fell short. It was a game that saw Fernando Martinez get his first start of the season in left field. At 9 games back in the division and 7.5 back in the wild card race, it appears that the Mets have decided to give some of their up-and-comers a shot. What the heck.
There were some trade rumor grumblings and suspicions that both Ruben Tejada and Martinez might have been part of some trade package. Seattle seemed to have been the interested party and word was out that Jeff Francoeur might have been included in a deal that would have sent Chone Figgins to the Mets. But as of yet, that trade has not materialized. Instead they were both brought up to the parent club and Alex Cora was let go. A move that was long overdue.
Martinez will get some much needed Major League experience and it will also allow the Mets to showcase him a little in case there are suitors for his services. Ike Davis made an impression early on with the Seattle Mariners so much so that Seattle was willing to trade Cliff Lee to the Mets for a deal that included Davis. The Mets balked at the deal, but Martinez hasn’t really made the strides the Mets were hoping that he’d make. He’s already gotten a reputation for being injury prone and has been dropping steadily in Baseball America’s prospect ratings year after year. In 2008, Martinez was the #20 ranked prospect in baseball than fell to #30 in 2009. In 2010, he slipped to #77. The Mets might be more inclined to include Martinez in a deal that made sense.
While the Mets are trying to infuse some youthful energy into their daily lineup, the arrivals of Martinez and Tejada has been off-putting to some. Francoeur has been told that he will be platooning with Martinez in right field. A few weeks back, Francoeur was having to come to grips with the fact that he was going to be losing playing time to Angel Pagan with Carlos Beltran coming off the DL. Francoeur appeared OK with that. He understood that Beltran’s bat needed to be in the lineup and Pagan has been one of the more consistent and surprising Mets players all year. But with Jason Bay out, the Mets needed Francoeur to step back into his right field role. But now, Francoeur seems a little less flexible with sharing time with Martinez. So much so, that Francoeur has had some closed door meeting with Jerry Manuel.
Tejada’s arrival also means that Luis Castillo will be riding the bench more. Castillo will still hit better than Tejada but Castillo’s slash line of .259/.322/.315 since the All Star break, won’t win him any medals, so if the Mets are wanting to cultivate Tejada, it would seem that Castillo will find a nice warm spot next to Francoeur on the bench.
None of these maneuvers are game changers. However, neither Francoeur, Castillo or for that matter Cora are difference makers that will help to win games on a consistent basis. The Mets are trying to change the complexion of the team and that means that some players, and some good guys, have to sit or be let go. These are the tough and sometimes unpleasant decisions that a team struggling for direction need to make.
Unfortunately, the most obvious decision and the one the Mets are still unwilling to make is the release of Oliver Perez. Now that would be a game changer.
In just the past few days the Mets’ starting pitching situation has been looking pretty bleak, not that it was a wealth of riches before. Oliver Perez has been banished to the bullpen (is there any chance that he can just stay there until his contract expires?). Jon Niese has a strained hamstring, reminiscent of last year’s leg injury that ended his season prematurely. And John Maine continues to labor from start to start, trying to will his way through 6 innings. Have you ever seen a pitcher work so hard to achieve such mediocre results? As Matt pointed out in this article, the Mets choices are limited both on the major league level and dipping into the minors.
So what are the other options?
There’s always the possibility of a trade. Roy Oswalt’s name has been mentioned in trade rumors indicating that if traded, he would like to go to a contending club. Not sure if the Mets qualify under his criteria of “contending”, but he would certainly be a good sidekick to Johan Santana. But the Mets would have to trade some pieces to get an Oswalt. Presumably, Ike Davis is not for sell as is Jenrry Mejia who was just sent down to the minor to resume his career path as a starter. Fernando Martinez remains a trade chip, but for an aging pitcher with back problems like Oswalt, Martinez would be a high price. Once Carlos Beltran is shown to be healthy, Angel Pagan could be viable trade bait that could actually land a usable pitcher.
But the problem with a trade is that it’s early in the year and teams are still trying to settle into the season and many general managers are not sure as of yet if they are buyers or sellers. Certainly any trade the Mets could pull off would probably not result in the highest return of value for whoever they gave up.
So where else do the Mets look for pitching? How about the free agent market?
They are some notable names that are still unsigned and looking for possible opportunities to play. Paul Byrd (39), Brandon Backe (32), Daniel Cabrera (29), Mark Prior (29) and John Smoltz (43) are all still available but highly risky choices as they are either coming back from injuries or perhaps fighting back the onset of time.
Pedro Martinez (38) is also still available. He proved to be a decent weapon for Philadelphia last year. The thing about Pedro is that irregardless of his waning abilities, he still has a fire in his belly to compete and he can usually go through a batting order a couple of times simply outthinking the opposing hitters. But Pedro is a fragile, aging talent and his arm has seen a lot of mileage.
And then there’s Jarrod Washburn (35), who is probably the best and healthiest arm available and certainly able to help out a team in need. Granted, he’s not an ace pitcher, but when you look at the group that currently makes up the Mets rotation, Washburn is certainly an upgrade over some of the pitchers that are currently taking the mound for the Mets.
Washburn has a career 4.10 ERA and a 107 – 109 lifetime record. Over the past 9 years, he’s averaged 182 innings per season which at least shows some consistency. Early in 2009, he was pitching over his head with Seattle compiling a 2.64 ERA in a 133 innings before being traded to Detroit where the wheels fell off. Historical trend analysis on Washburn could have predicted the regression in Detroit and Washburn finished the season with a typical Washburn-like season: good but not great.
Washburn has always been an A.L. pitcher and like a Javier Vazquez could potentially thrive in the weaker hitting N.L. He’s been very effective at neutralizing left-handed hitters throughout his career with lefties hitting just .237 off of him and a WHIP of 1.12. This would work nicely against division rivals like the Phillies.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle standing in the way for the Mets is that Washburn is a Scott Boras client. Back in January, Washburn had turned down a $5 million offer from the Twins. Last year Washburn was paid $10.35 million. This is big money for a player, but last year Washburn had a WAR (wins above replacement player) of 2.1 which converts to about $9.4 million in today’s market. So Boras will make a case for Washburn to earn pretty close to that kind of money.
Granted as the season moves along, the contract demands may lessen, but Boras plays extreme hardball for his clients. He’s the kind of agent that could take a pig, put a dress and lipstick on it and make you want to take it to the prom as your date. Look how he feed Oliver Perez to the Mets making them believe they were getting crème brulee when all he really is is 5 year-old Christmas fruit cake that’s been passed around and re-gifted.
But Washburn could be an interesting choice to anchor the Mets and provide some consistency from start to start. If the Mets have money to spend, he’s the best option out there and he wouldn’t cost the team any talent from their farm system. Washburn may not be a good fit for teams like the Angels, Giants or that team over in the Bronx. But for the Mets…I repeat, for the Mets…he could be a tulip in a field of poison ivy.
Spring training is in full swing and a number of issues and concerns are on the table as well as some nice surprises and positive trends that have emerged early on. Let’s take a look at the pleasant problems the Mets are facing and what they might do about the more serious concerns and questions that still need to be addressed.
The Good Stuff
Some early indications have shown that David Wright’s approach at the plate may be taking a change for the better compared to last season. He has already hit 2 home runs in 13 AB’s and has only struck out once. It looks like the work that he did with Howard Johnson during the winter appears to be bearing fruit. Granted, it’s spring training, the pitching is not major league-ready and Tradition Field is not CitiField, but these are still good signs that he is driving the ball.
Prospects Ike Davis and Fernando Martinez have been impressive batting .583 and .526 respectively while hitting 2 home runs apiece. The mildly disappointing part is that both players will probably not make the opening day team and will be sent to triple A. It’s a shame because Davis will no doubt be the first basemen of the future but the Mets will be more inclined to give Daniel Murphy the opportunity to fail or succeed and allow Davis more time to ripen.
Martinez, on the other hand, is close if not already major league ready and with Carlos Beltran on the mend, it would be a great time for the Mets to put him out there and see what he could do. Unfortunately, the small financial commitment the Mets have made to Gary Matthews Jr. and his experience puts him ahead of Martinez to make the team along with Angel Pagan. If the Mets could move Matthews this spring (easier to do since it’s on the Los Angeles Angels’ dime), Martinez could share the centerfield duties with Pagan until Beltran is healthy. But this is a transaction that is doubtful to happen and Martinez will probably be one of the last players cut come opening day.
The Concerning Stuff
Jose Reyes has been diagnoses with Graves’ disease and while this is treatable, it does throw a kink in the schedule for him to make the opening day roster. The timetable for his return is vague (8 weeks?) as the media relations department for the Mets indicated that “Jose’s treatment plan is to rest, refrain from athletic activity and make changes in his diet”. Mets’ Medical Director Dr. David Alchek is going to monitor Reyes’ blood levels through regular tests and once his thyroid levels are back to normal, he will be cleared to get back out on the field. So it appears that the first game of the season probably feature Pagan/Matthews in center and Alex Cora/Ruben Tejada at short. Not exactly substantial replacement players for Beltran and Reyes. Here’s a quick look at these players Runs Above Replacement (RAR) player to get an idea what is lost without Beltran and Reyes in the lineup.
Keep in mind that Reyes was out most of the year but Pagan was very productive in his limited role. It’s easy to see that the other players listed above really don’t hold up to the contributions that Reyes and Beltran make. Let’s hope that the plan and treatment for Reyes is effective so that he can back on the diamond quickly.
Another issue that has become more prominent is the 8th inning setup role and who will hand the 9th over to Francisco Rodriguez. Kelvim Escobar, who was initially penciled in as the guy, still has not been able to resume any type of baseball duties that would even remotely make him a candidate for the job. So who do the Mets turn to to fulfill the spot? I’ll provide you with small list of possibilities for the role and they are Bobby Parnell, Ryota Igarashi, Hisanori Takahashi and Jenrry Mejia. The most intriguing choice of the 4 is Mejia. Mejia has been practically unhittable in the games he has pitched so far but he is a raw talent and throwing him into 8th inning pressure situation may not be the best introduction to the big leagues. I suspect that Mejia, despite his impressive outings, will find himself on the same flight to Buffalo with Davis and Martinez when spring training ends. But Manuel is strongly considering Mejia as an option and if he continues to dominate the hitters he has faced, he would be difficult to deny him a spot in the bullpen.
Igarashi and Takahashi are also interesting choices with quite a bit of baseball experience just not in the Major Leagues. It’s hard to know how the Japanese stats would translate to MLB but some analysis suggests that you can usually expect around a 30% increase in ERA and 15% decrease in strikeouts and interestingly enough a 5% decrease in walks (I guess Japanese players are far more patient). This would mean that based upon last year’s statistics in Japan, Igarashi would project to have a 5.40 ERA, 6.1 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. Takahashi wouldn’t fair any better with a 5.41 ERA, 5.7 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. Obviously, this formula is speculation and I would venture to say that both pitchers would perform better than that but it appears that the Japanese imports may not be the best choices initially for the 8th inning until some consistency is established with big league hitting.
Parnell made 30 appearances last year in the 8th inning and had good success keeping hitters to a .213 BA in that frame. The problem with Parnell is that he hasn’t been able to harness that 96 mph fastball and bases on balls has been his undoing last year allowing 4.7 BB/9. One can only hope that experience brings improvement and we see more command over his pitches to be that setup guy.
Certainly, this is an open issue that will more than likely remain open until the season starts and more probable into the season as Jerry Manuel may try out different pitchers to handle the 8th. Manuel may mix and match and experiment looking for the right combination. After all, we know how Manuel likes to experiment. However, the sooner roles are defined for the pitchers, the better. It’s always beneficial when a pitcher knows his role so he can prepare both mentally and physically to enter the game at his designated time. But with too many unclear choices, it will probably be a case of trial by error.
So let’s hear what you think. Is David Wright’s home runs a good sign of things to come or do you think he will be psyched out by the cavernous gaps and high walls of CitiField? Would you have Martinez and/or Davis make the opening day roster and finally, who would you like to see be the 8th inning setup guy? Parnell? Mejia? Or some other choice? The phone lines are open. Let’s hear from you.
The business of spring training is the business of locking down the last two-to-three roster spots at its heart. That’s probably not as romantically as it’s been put, but it’s the truth. So, in the parlance of Donald Rumsfeld, let’s list the known knowns going into Spring Training, so that we can figure out the known unknowns and see which players we should watch closely.
1B Daniel Murphy
2B Luis Castillo
3B David Wright
SS Jose Reyes
LF Jason Bay
CF Angel Pagan
RF Jeff Francoeur
Backup MI Alex Cora
Backup OF Gary Matthews Jr.
SP Johan Santana
SP John Maine
SP Mike Pelfrey
SP Oliver Perez
SP Jonathon Niese
CL Francisco Rodriguez
RP Pedro Feliciano
RP Ryota Igarashi
RP Sean Green
RP Bobby Parnell
DL Kelvim Escobar
DL Carlos Beltran
+1 BN P/OF
So that doesn’t leave much suspense, does it? I could easily have penciled in the catchers – the early money is on Rod Barajas to be the number 1 and Henry Blanco to back him up, with Blanco maybe getting the nod against lefty starters because of his superior split OPS. Nelson Figueroa and Fernando Nieve are the favorites for those last two pitcher spots – although they could just sign Figueroa for the minor leagues as they have done the last two years.
Backup corner infield is probably the most interesting battle in camp, so we’ll spend a whole post or ten talking about Mike Jacobs and Fernando Tatis who are battling for that spot. If the 25th man is not a pitcher, the loser of that battle will jump into the fray with Chris Carter, Fernando Martinez, speedster Jason Pridie, and good old Nick Evans. This isn’t a bad group of players to watch and discuss in the coming weeks.
If the 25th man is a pitcher, you’re looking at someone out of the group that’s in camp: lefties Hisanori Takahashi and Jay Marshall and righties Pat Misch, Tobi Stoner, Eddie Kunz make up that group. We’ll keep an eye on this group, because some of the younger guys used to have promise, but it’s not a very scintillating collection of arms. Given all the injuries the Mets’ position players had last year, the bet is that someone like Carter or Tatis takes that final spot. And it’s starting to look like Winter League MVP F-Mart will play every day in AAA to start 2010, isn’t it? Once Beltran returns, three reserve outfielders is a bit much.
Happy spring watching Stoner, Pridie and Jacobs battle for the roster!
A running theme in the comments threads and the posts here at GodBlessBuckner seems to be that the Mets can’t decide what kind of a team they are. Are they buyers or sellers, as the pre-trade deadline saying goes. Maybe it’s not their fault, given the circumstances. But one thing seems for sure: indecision is the mark of poor teams in baseball.
But first, the Mets. Of course they spend money like a championship contender, but things didn’t work out for them. Injuries took their toll. The three-headed super-star monster of Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes went down and took the team’s offense with it. The rotation, made shaky by poor decisions (Oliver Perez over Derek Lowe), was further worsened by injury to the solid John Maine. The bullpen, which could have been dominant, lost JJ Putz out of the eighth inning and has only been okay since.
On the face of things, the Mets should pack it in for this year. At seven games under even baseball, 12 games out of first in the division with two teams ahead of them, and 9.5 games out of the wild card with six teams between them and the leader, the Mets should realize that this is not the year. The focus should immediately become making next year’s team better.
Perhaps that is what happened when Omar Minaya sat on his hands through the deadline this year. Perhaps he was saving all his bullets for next year. Perhaps.
But there can be no doubt what the Florida Marlins would have done had they found themselves in the spot that the Mets are in now. They would have immediately begun fielding offers for Dan Uggla, a free agent at the end of the year. Players like Jorge Cantu and Jeremy Hermida, who may both become more expensive than they are worth at the end of the year, would have gone on the block too. Any veterans in key roles that may be gone would find a rookie starting for them as the team tried to figure out what they had going into 2010. Hello, Gaby Sanchez.
Does this decisive buyer/seller system work? Well, you can’t argue with the results in the case of the Marlins. They may have some attendance issues, but in terms of winning and losing the Marlins have won more world series titles in their short existence than the Chicago Cubs have won in the past century. Or, for that matter, as many as the Mets have won, in a much shorter period of time.
The attendance issue is a big one for a big-market team like the Mets. Could they have decisively become sellors at the deadline in New York? The prescription seems to be that they should have pushed Gary Sheffield and Luis Castillo agressively, while giving Daniel Murphy and a healthy Fernando Martinez all the at-bats they could handle. Livan Hernandez would have been released by now, and possibly even Pedro Feliciano would have been on the block.
Maybe this sort of prescription only works in smaller markets. The Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants, and Chicago Cubs have all suffered similar fates as the Mets, and are all possibly in markets too large to admit to a focus on the future. The Braves did manage to sell Mark Teixeira in a down year, and have been a little bit more decisive than the Mets seem to be. They’ve also had more recent success. The Chicago Cubs, on the other hand, have the same pressures as the Mets: an old veteran team that plays just good enough to avoid an overhaul.
Could the Mets have survived the blitzstorm that would have come from being a seller in this media market? It’s been a long time since one of the New York teams so obviously acted like a Have Not, or took such an obvious focus on Next Year. Would it lose fans in droves? Would the Wilpons be vilified?
Probably. But the team would have been better for it. And fans like winning most of all.
Omar Minaya went on the offensive a little bit while in the booth on SNY during last night’s game. Perhaps he is feeling the heat. To paraphrase the gyst of his discussion, he basically said that it doesn’t matter if people think that the Mets organization doesn’t have prospects because ‘people that know’ and ‘people that evaluation skills’ are the only ones that matter.
Let’s just leave out the fact that he didn’t point out any people that DID matter, or what those people might think. That isn’t something he’d admit on television, and probably because it isn’t pretty. And let’s also leave out any hurt feelings a member of the blogosphere might feel at hearing words like that. Though he made some vague references to being in New York and people that didn’t know what they are talking about, this blogger understands that he’s never been to scout school, and that he’s learning every day.
But let’s not leave out all the people that do know what they are talking about. There are plenty of news organizations that have scouts on their staff and some cache in the business of baseball, and across the board, they agree: the Mets have a barren minor league system.
Baseball America: The premier source on prospects had this to say about the Mets’ prospects this year:
The Mets also included Venezuelan righty Deolis Guerra in the deal that brought Johan Santana to New York. While they’d make that move again and again, it further depleted a system that was already thin at the upper levels. When injuries created a need for an outfielder in July, they had to promote third catcher Robinson Cancel because their Triple-A New Orleans affiliate was barren.
Baseball Prospectus: Though a little more numbers- based than BA, BP also gives a nod in the direction of traditional scouting. They ranked the Mets’ minor league system at 18th in the major leagues and remarked that they may some day get out of the bottom half. When waxing negative on the system, they also had this to say:
Ike Davis‘ debut was so bad that they can’t just write it off; the defensive home of fellow 2008 first-rounder Reese Havens is still uncertain; Brad Holt needs to improve his secondary stuff to avoid being categorized as a reliever; will Fernando Martinez ever stay healthy for an entire year?
FanGraphs: A leading website on statistics and analysis, FanGraphs features unique statistics cited by leading media figures. They’ve had writers that have entered mainstream baseball work, and they have had this to say about the Mets’ minor league system in their organizational rankings:
Minor League Talent:: B-
Is Fernando Martinez the next Hanley Ramirez or Ruben Rivera? His aggressive promotion schedule makes his performances tough to judge in proper context, but most still believe in his physical abilities. Jon Niese is a good but not great pitching prospect, and Wilmer Flores and Jefry Marte are high upside guys that aren’t anywhere close to the majors. So, while there’s talent, there’s not a lot of upper level depth, and there aren’t any guys on the system who don’t have a real question mark that needs to be answered.
Scout.com: A website that focuses solely on prospects, Scout.com aggregates information and has a scouting and writing staff of its own. After a partnership with Fox, their profile is rising. They felt that the Mets only have two prospects with 3 or more stars in Wilmer Flores and Fernando Martinez, and that the Mets as a whole have only eight of the top 300 prospects in baseball this year.
So it’s not just a couple bloggers in their underwear saying that the Mets’ farm system is barren at the top and questionable at the bottom. Plenty of people with ‘evaluation skills’ also believe that to be the case.
Now, with the Daily News reporting that the VP of Player Development, Tony Bernazard, took his shirt off and cussed at the AA Binghamton team before the all-star break, Minaya’s management skills are beginning to be looked at as questionable, as well. Apparently, Minaya knew of the situation and didn’t think it was a big deal. Until the news leaked today. Now the Mets are ‘taking the allegations very seriously.’
But the rumors have it that Tony Bernazard will keep his job. Someone‘s got to light a fire under these mediocre prospects, eh?
The Metropolitans have put up a measly 28 runs in their last 10 games (and 0 so far today). Jose Reyes, paging Jose Reyes. The fleet-footed middle infielder was supposed to step up his rehab and begin running the bases this week, but since Sunday the team has gone dark and there’s been no news. Even with Reyes coming back, the team needs some oomph lower in the order with los dos Carloses out.
Lets continue our look through the system and try to identify some trade pieces. So far, we’ve decided that Nick Evans can go in almost any deal that will bring back help, and that even Fernando Martinez should be available if the talent coming back is young and on both sides of the ball. That’s zero untouchables so far for those scoring at home. And the AAA roster is not going yield any untouchables. In fact, the lineup in Buffalo is pretty putrid. Take a look:
Cory Sullivan (CF) .294/.360/.370 (30 years old)
Jesus Feliciano (LF) .305/.344/.387 (30 years old)
Chip Ambres (RF) .239/.319/.344 (29 years old)
Emil Brown (DH) .276/.345/.427 (34 years old)
Mike Lamb (3B) .225/.258/.333 (33 years old)
Javier Castillo (SS) .274/.328/.409 (25 years old)
Michael Abreu (1B) .240/.304/.370 (30 years old)
Rene Rivera (C) .241/.298/.375 (26 years old)
Wilson Valdez (2B) .199/.269/.206 (31 years old)
Wow. That is terrible. If the average age of your AAA starting lineup is over 30 (29.8 in this case), your farm system is in trouble. The Mets’ minor league talent level was given a B- by FanGraphs in their organizational rankings. This comment from the writeup was revealing:
So, while there’s talent, there’s not a lot of upper level depth, and there aren’t any guys on the system who don’t have a real question mark that needs to be answered.
Granted, teams usually use AAA to stash players that are almost ready for the majors, or are the kind of defensive replacements that bigger teams need. Sixth outfielders, third catchers and backup backup middle infielders are often the norm. Consider that the Braves received an A- for their minor league talent from the same organization, and here is their AAA lineup with slash lines and ages:
Joey Gathright (LF) .321/.377/.375 (28 years old)
Justin Christian (CF) .266/.306/.369 (29 years old)
Jeff Fiorentino (RF) .294/.366/.483 (26 years old)
Brandon Snyder (1B) .320/.392/.547 (22 years old)
Michael Aubrey (DH) .299/.328/.456 (27 years old)
Melvin Dorta (2B) .295/.356/.405 (27 years old)
Justin Turner (SS) .280/.335/.344 (24 years old)
Robby Hammock (C) .191/.251/.272 (32 years old)
Brandon Pinckney (3B) .277/.289/.323 (27 years old)
As you can see, the Braves’ Norfolk team boasts many of the same extra pieces as the Mets’. Robbie Hammock and Melvin Dorta are the kind of injury replacements a team like the Braves and Mets can stash in AAA. They are about the same as the Mets’ counterparts in Rene Rivera and Wilson Valdez. The Braves have Joey Gathright as the speedy center field AAA project, and the Mets have Cory Sullivan as their speedy center field AAA project.
But there are notable differences, too. The average age of the Braves’ AAA lineup is 26.8, which is significantly younger than the lineup the Bison are fielding. Also, the Braves actually have a couple interesting prospects in AAA. Michael Aubrey hasn’t ever shown the power that the Indians wanted from their corner infielders, but he’s a competent minor leaguer that should get a shot from someone. Brandon Snyder also has some nice things going for him and is a step away from the major leagues at 22 years old.
Yes, this was a very long way of saying: there aren’t any prospects worth talking about in AAA for the Mets. If any team anywhere shows any interest whatsoever in a Bison, the verdict is clearly:
Now that we are taking stock of the young players on the Mets and in their farm system, it’s time to take a look at their best prospect, Fernando Martinez. He’s often mentioned in possible trade talks, and often declared untouchable. Should he be?
On the surface, his stats don’t seem like those of an untouchable prospect. His overall slash line in 1204 plate appearances in the minor leagues was .282/.338/.446, a combined .785 OPS. He hasn’t hit more than 10 homers in any single season, and he has 19 stolen bases against 12 caught stealings, so he’s not a base stealer. His single best OPS in any extended time was the .894 he put up in 211 plate appearances in Sally Ball in 2006.
There’s the first clue that there’s a little more than meets the eye with Martinez. He was a 17-year-old teenager in 2006, and he held his own with a .793 OPS in a man’s world. The fact that he kept up with the big boys at such a young age was impressive enough for the Mets to keep advancing him.
He took a step backward from a .279/.336/.457 first year to .265/.331/.376. That would have been worse if he was not an 18-year-old in AA. Given a second chance in AA this year, he went roaring ahead with a .292/.345/.440 line. He’s now a 20-year-old with a .180/.247/.281 line in the major leagues. Way back in 2007, Justin Upton was in a similar situation and put up a surprisingly similar .221/.283/.364 in 140 at-bats. Again, the numbers look a little mediocre unless the age is attached.
On the other hand, he has some real faults. His defense won’t play in center field – his recent trip over his own feet out in center field is only the first part of it. His minor league team wasn’t playing him in center, despite a paucity of options, and the numbers and scouts agree that he won’t be a center fielder. He won’t have plus speed, as you can tell from his caught stealings and declining attempts. And he still hasn’t shown an extended burn with impressive power.
So what exactly is the plus tool that he owns? So much of what the scouts like depends on that age, and his ‘projectability.’ But at some point, a player has to actually perform. His overall .290/.337/.540 line in the minors this year is the closest he’s come to really impressing, and even that line has its flaws. He doesn’t walk much, with a career high of 7.7% in AA last year. Yeah, he makes a good amount of contact (his strikeout rate hovers around 18%, which is okay), but that’s about it.
In some ways, his statistical profile parallels Delmon Young‘s. Is that really untouchable? Probably not. You also have to remember how it took a strong young pitcher like Matt Garza to pry Young loose before he showed his warts. So, if Minaya is offered some young pitching on that level with some immediate offensive help (like Garza and Jason Bartlett), there’s only one answer:
(Otherwise, don’t. Aubrey Huff ain’t worth giving him up.)
Last night, Fernando Martinez made his second debut with the Metropolitans, playing center field and batting seventh. If the 20-year-old can even hold his head above water defensively or offensively, the team could solve two problems with one player. They need a center fielder, at least against lefties, and they need some offensive punch.
The question is, of course, if Martinez can hold his head above water. So far his .185/.274/.262 line is underwhelming at best. Defensively, AAA Buffalo had also avoided playing Martinez in center field all year this year, choosing instead, for the most part, to play 29-year-old Colorado castoff Cory Sullivan there fulltime. Sullivan’s lackluster .274/.338/.348 line there this year, and his career .740 OPS against lefties in the minors, make him a poor choice for offensive igniter or lefty platoon caddy for Jeremy Reed.
So Omar Minaya called up Martinez. Here I must apologize for something I said in my last post. I pointed out that Martinez has a .903 OPS against lefties in the minors – that number is actually only for this year. Given that this nice OPS has been accrued in only 41 at-bats against southpaws so far this year, and that his career minor league OPS against lefties is .700 (vs. .815 against righties), it seems that Martinez is also not a great fit for the major league team.
And we haven’t even gotten into his defense. If his minor league team won’t play him in center field, you’ve got a major clue that he’s probably not ready to play cavernous Citi Field center field. In his first game back, he acquitted himself well for the most part, and made all the ‘easy’ catches. He did, however, let a ball fall that Carlos Beltran would have snared. It’s hard to fault a 20-year-old rookie for not being one of the best defensive center fielders in the majors right away, but there you have it.
If major league defensive stats are still in their infancy, then minor league ones are much worse off. We can see that Martinez had a range factor of 2.31 in center field in the minor leagues, and that Beltran, an elite defender, had a career range factor of 2.7 in center field in the major leagues. To give an idea of the scale, a ‘poor’ defensive center fielder like Shane Victorino has a career 2.2 range factor in center field.
So long story short, if Martinez can put something together at the plate, he can play center field for the Mets until Beltran comes back, and allow Minaya to look for some offense he can plug in at the corner outfield or corner infield positions. Victorino’s bat helps him play in center field, so the same is true for Martinez.
But if Minaya is to play it safe, Scott Hairston (career range factor of 2.0 in CF) and Jason Michaels (2.1 range factor in CF) are the low-cost options that will eliminate some of the defensive angst that might arise from playing Martinez in center field too often.