The Prospect Corner – Fernando Martinez

11 01 2008

Yesterday I spent some time looking at Carlos Gomez, so it only seems appropriate to follow that up by looking at Fernando Martinez who recently finished up a more than adequate year at AA ball as an 18 year old. The Mets are confident enough in their young outfield prospects that this off season they traded away Lastings Milledge, who was one of the most promising prospects they’ve had in years (I know there were a lot of issues surrounding his character, but in usual Mets fashion they bought high and sold low with Milledge). A lot of things have been said about Martinez, who has been dubbed F-Mart for short, and here are just a few of the quotes I found regarding this young slugger:

“Martinez looks like a young Ted Williams.” – Anonymous scout

“Fernandez has great posture for being so young.” – Rafael Bournigal, Mets’ director of international scouting

“What we saw in [Martinez] was a 16-year-old kid with power, great ability and great character, above everything else.” – Omar Minaya

“The 18-year-old has that special something that causes the ball to crack off his bat in an unparalleled tone.” – Adam Foster of projectprospect.com

Without having ever seen Martinez play in person, it’s hard for me to know if any of these quotes are completely accurate. To be called a “young Ted Williams” seems to be a bit of a stretch since I seriously doubt that there are any scouts still living that saw Williams play in the late 1930’s. However, all reports on F-Mart seem to be consistent with one another and it sounds like he’s a good kid with a nice power stroke type swing. Listed at about 6′ 2″ and 190 lbs, he has a good build for his age and if it weren’t for a BABIP of .200 at A+ in St. Lucie last year, F-Mart would have few doubters. He also recently had his season at AA ball cut short due to a hand injury that seemed to sap some of his power. Just from watching clips of him on YouTube, it looks like he has a nice quiet swing, but I think he often leaves too much weight on his back foot and as a result hits a lot of ground balls to the right side. If he learns to shift more of his weight forward I think his power numbers will improve.

Another important fact to point out is Martinez’s splits against lefties and righties. In 2006, he posted a .349/.482/.831 stat line against righties and a .289/.350/.639 line against lefties. That’s a fairly large disparity, especially when you consider that his BABIP against lefties was 80 points lower than his BABIP against righties and 9 of his 12 homeruns came against right handed pitchers. It’s not an unusual problem for a young hitter to face, and I think his stats versus LHPs will increase with time, but his advancement through the minors and his success in the majors will problem depend on how quickly that adjustment occurs.

As far as comparisons go, Martinez is a special case. Since he’s played through A and AA ball at such a young age, there are very few players that would provide accurate comparable stats to go by. F-Mart is the only player to have at least 100 at-bats in A+ ball that I could find, so that makes it very difficult to even begin a list of players to compare him to. Generally, we can expect a hitter that has played at AA by the age of 19 to reproduce those stats in the majors by the age of 22 or 23. As an example we’ll take a look at B.J. Upton, Jose Reyes, and Juan Gonzalez:

Of course these trends aren’t 100% guaranteed, but they give us a rudimentary baseline projection system that can give us an idea of what to expect from a young hitter. We also might want to consider that Martinez was injured in 2007, so his stats at AA ball weren’t as high as the possibly could have been. Taking that into consideration and applying his numbers to our trends to come up with a conservative projection for Martinez, we come up with something that looks like this:

There’s always a chance that Martinez will hit a growth spurt or make an adjustment that will increase his production, but he’s just as likely to flame out before he reaches the majors (see Andy Marte). If he stays on the projection course he’s on now, then I can see him posting a slugging percentage close to .500 and an on-base of about .350 with a few 30+ homeruns season during the prime of his career. I’ve heard that he’s fast and could steal a lot of bases, but his stats don’t support that rumor, so until he develops that skill set I think most of his value will come from what he does at the plate.

F-Mart has a lot of up-side, so these projection numbers are very preliminary, but I think he fits in with guys like Felix Pie, Hanley Ramirez and Cameron Maybin. That’s not a bad group to be in, but he’s definitely not the next Ted Williams and that will certainly come as a huge disappointment to a lot of Mets fans. In terms of card prices, as Martinez gets closer and closer to the majors, his prices will rise, but I think once he’s had 400-500 at-bats his prices will be significantly reduced. He might have a few good seasons early and that might translate into a rebound in prices, but for now there are much better investments out there. Wait to ick up some of his auto rookie cards after his first full year in the majors (the Mets are almost certain to bring him up before he’s ready) and then wait for his first big breakout performance and unload a few of them.

-Adam G.


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6 responses

11 01 2008
Chris Gilmore

if you are serious about this, why not get your own domain name?

11 01 2008
Mario C.

That would be a great idea. TheProspectCorner.com?

Just don’t forget about Wax Heaven!😦

11 01 2008
Jeff

Hanley Ramirez is great company to be in. You could argue he had one of the top 3 offensive season in the NL last year in only his 2nd year in the majors.

11 01 2008
Mario C.

Jeff, I already predicted Hanley would be the first 50-50 Man. Yeah, I know….maybe too far of a reach but I have a great feeling about him.

11 01 2008
Joel

Hard to project what a kid his age will do since he never really had a chance to develop in the first place. He’s so raw and at this point he is living off his natural ability.

However, one reason one can expect a good career from him is that even at 18, in AA, he was able to get on base and did not look foolish as many young ‘toolsy’ prospects do. Yes, Carlos Gomez, I am talking about you.

Because he is so polished (you can always tell when a young hitter gets on base and doesn’t average 150 k’s in AA before 20) at this age, he might hit a ceiling earlier than most or at least experience as many pitfalls. He’ll probably be the most polished 20/21 year old hitter when he’s called up, compared to most.

However, he probably will not become the complete player that Hanley Ramirez is. He won’t be as raw and won’t take as long to figure it out, but I would figure he’d be a good first basemen with adequate speed and known mostly as a comparable to Alou, maybe with more power.

24 12 2008
Bruce Hamby

You failed to mention that Juan Gonzalez was likely at least 2 years older than reported. It was standard for Latin players to phony their ages by 2-4 years. This came to an end after 9/11 when legitimate birth certificates became necessary for these players to enter the country. Over 200 active Latin major & minor league ages were found to be years older than they signed as. Also, why don’t you point out Davd Wrights status as a 19 year-old. F-Mart was in the top 10 in Total Bases, Slugging, and OPS in the very tuff Dominican Winter League. He’s widely considered the best 20 year-old power hitter in baseball. He’ll likely be called up for keeps by September. By 2010 the 22 year-old should be an impact player who will get better for years to come.

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