Monday, January 11, 2010

Even More Context For Appreciating Fernando Martinez

I think my love for Fernando Martinez is well-chronicled by now.[1][2][3]

We already pointed out that his .290/.337/.540 line in AAA as a 20-year-old was downright phenomenal. We as fans already know about his tools, his quick-wrists, and his approach to the game. We saw him, almost a child, playing baseball against men in their prime - some almost twice his age.

That said, I came across another reason to love him.

Fernando's 878 OPS is impressive in any place -- but it is even more impressive in the International League. If he had accumulated enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title, his OPS would have placed him ninth in the entire league. That's just outrageous.

Among Mets minor leaguers in Buffalo, he would have placed first by a mile. He was not competing with any elite players, but he easily outpaced Mike Lamb (669), Cory Sullivan (719), Nick Evans (694) and Wily Mo Pena (710), who have all played competently in the majors. The average hitter for Buffalo posted a line of only .255/.307/.365.

So who would Fernando have ranked among on the league leaderboard?

Kevin Barker, LOU, 1B
Matt LaPorta, COL, LF
Shelley Duncan, SWB, RF
Brian Myrow, IND, RF
Jordan Brown, COL, LF
Jeff Fiorentino, NOR, RF
Chris Richard, DUR, 1B
Jon Weber, DUR, LF
***Fernando Martinez, BUF, OF***
Michael Restovich CHA, LF

We can immediately eliminate some of these players as too old to be considered prospects. Kevin Barker is a 33 years old. Shelley Duncan is 29. Bryan Myrow is a 32 year old. Jeff Fiorentino is 26. Chris Richard is 35. Jon Weber is 31. Michael Restovich is 30. These are all men in their primes who are probably just not good enough to make the major leagues.

The other thing you'll notice is that ALL of these other players are either first basemen or corner outfielders - players with significantly less defensive potential than Fernando Martinez.

That leaves only Matt LaPorta and Jordan Brown as comparisons for Fernando. There has been an incredible amount of hype around those two players.

Matt LaPorta has been ranked the 27th and 28th best prospect in baseball in the last two years. He was a major piece in the CC Sabathia to Milwaukee deal, and hit 24 home runs between AAA and MLB last year. Jason Grey of ESPN said of LaPorta that "LaPorta won't hit for much average, but he will post a good on-base percentage and will have 40-homer power as he develops as a big league hitter." John Sickels graded him as a B+ prospect. Keith Law graded him as the fifth-best first base prospect in the game - between Logan Morrison and Angel Villalona, other big time prospects. He was 24 this season.

Jordan Brown kind of came out of nowhere as a prospect to post his good stats last season. He hit .336/.381/.532 -- but he is tied to first base or the corner outfield and is already 25 years old.

The bottom line is this: Fernando Martinez may have some warts. He has been injured with this-or-that at some point in each of the last three seasons. His strikeout to walk ratio wasn't superlative in AAA last year. But say what you will about all that -- his performance in AAA was phenomenal.

For Matt LaPorta, an inferior defender who is vastly older, to be hyped as he is, and for Mets fans to be so pessimistic about Fernando, is pretty ridiculous. Add in the fact that he had only a -0.3 UZR last season while playing almost 30% of his innings in center field last year, and you have yourself one hell of a well-rounded prospect.


[1] I mentioned it a few days ago in a prospect write-up: "Fernando Martinez IS still an elite prospect."

[2] And also here: "We are watching Fernando Martinez finally tap into the immense potential we've been told about for three years."

[3] And from the same blog: "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... is downright silly."


FSMetFan said...

"If he had accumulated enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title, his OPS would have placed him ninth in the entire league."...I think this guy is talented but once again he is always hurt...its something every year...maybe this will get corrected but its a major concern

Brian said...

The injuries have been troublesome so far but, in my opinion, they seem to be unrelated injuries. One sprain here, a nick there. Nothing chronic or that would suggest a serious injury to me.

In addition, the fact that the Mets are being very cautious with him might make the injures seem worse than they are. You never know - he may have been able to play through some of them had he not been such a prized prospect.