Monday, November 16, 2009

Keep or Trade Fernando?

Today had a poll, asking readers whether they think that we should keep or trade top prospect Fernando Martinez.

I'm sorry -- where is the option for "THE IDEA OF TRADING HIM IS CRAZY!!!" because I didn't see it. I explained my feelings on Fernando earlier this month both here and here. Among other things, I pointed out that:

Fernando hit .290/.337/.540 in AAA last season at the age of 20. And this is building on a season where, at the age of 19, and after a slow April, he hit .303 in AA from May til the end of the year.

* * *

It appears the guys at Amazin' Avenue might feel the same about the drop in the rankings and the perception of Fernando. They worry that perhaps "the Mets are putting stock into his worthless sample-size major-league audition, because I find it hard to believe an injury could hurt his stock so much in a season where he had a break out."

And break out he certainly did. We are watching Fernando Martinez finally tap into the immense potential we've been told about for three years. If you told anyone that you had a 20 year-old in Triple-A and posting an OPS of 877, they would probably be willing to trade the farm for him. But in New York, the hype machine starts young and fizzles out quickly.

I also mentioned that Fernando's minor league performance compared favorably to players such as Derek Jeter, Manny Ramirez, David Wright, Matt Holliday, Grady Sizemore, and many others. Metsblog acknowledged a hesitance to give up on Fernando now, pointing out:

He’s only 20 years old… i mean, at 20 years old, David Wright was batting .250 in the Single-A Sally League… this year, in his fourth professional season, Fernando hit .290 with 26 extra base hits in 45 games for Triple-A Buffalo

I'm not guaranteeing that Fernando Martinez is going to turn into Jeter, or Pujols, or whomever else. But the concept that he might be someone who would be a good candidate to trade now is nuts.

Take a look at Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects from last year. The #1 prospect in all of baseball was Matt Weiters. He had a fantastic season in 2008, before the rankings came out. He was a stud, and he posted an OPS over 1000 at both A and AA. But he was 22 years old... still two full years older than Fernando Martinez is today. If Fernando was left to grow and mature in the minors for two more years, how do you think he would do in Double-A?

To compare Fernando to another young outfielder, Cameron Maybin was the #8 prospect in the entire game. In 2008, he had just come off a season where he hit .277/.375/.456 in AA as a 21 year old. One year OLDER than Fernando, at one level LOWER than Fernando, and posted statistics WORSE than Fernando.

Colby Rasmus, another outfielder, was ranked #3 in all of baseball. He was coming off a season where he hit a paltry .251/.346/.396 in AAA as a 21 year old. People were giving him credit because of his tools and because he was dealing with an apparent injury -- but those stats are NOT good. People were still raving over his previous year, where he hit .275/.381/.551 in AA as a 20 year old. Fantastic stats to be sure, and the tools to match, but comparable to Fernando and at an entire level lower.

These are not meant to be direct comparisons or predictions[1]. They are simply meant to point out the absolute ridiculous nature in which Fernando Martinez's future is being discussed. Fernando isn't the next coming of Mickey Mantle -- but he compares favorably to players who were given incredible hype as prospects.

It is about time that he gets his due. He turned 21 only last month, and he's knocking on the door of the major leagues. The idea that now might be a good time to trade him, or that he could be used as a chip to acquire someone like Curtis Granderson[2], is downright silly.

[1] Weiters was a catcher. Rasmus is regarded as one of the more athletically gifted prospects in the game. Maybin is also an excellent athlete, and plays centerfield.

These comparisons are not direct, nor does simply looking at numbers tell you the entire story. Some scouts don't like Fernando's tools or is projection. They worry that he will not be so fast, and he'll have to hit better to justify a high ranking. Well to that I say -- he has.

The point is that those three were SO highly regarded as to be considered 3 of the top 10 prospects in all of baseball. They were not just good or interesting prospects -- they were the elite.

Fernando, despite performing similarly or better and at a younger age, will probably be ranked somewhere between 25 and 35 on this year's list of top prospects. Why?

[2] I can't find stats for Curtis Granderson was 20, but when he was 21 he was in Low-A ball. He hit .286/.365/.458. He didn't truly break out as a prospect until he was 22, when he hit .303/.407/.515 in AA.

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