Decisions on Murphy and Martinez


About two weeks ago, we suggested that Dan Murphy and Fernando Martinez might be in competition with each other. At this point, we may have a “winner”, though, before long, both may find themselves in AAA.

Since Murphy has moved to first base, he has drawn rave reviews for his fielding from the most optimistic onlookers, perhaps blinded by their desire to see him succeed. Yes, he’s been remarkably more comfortable and better looking at first base compared to his adventures in the outfield. But watching him with an unbiased, objective eye, it’s clear that Murphy is no Keith Hernandez at first base, and in fact is only mediocre to passable at the position. That doesn’t mean he won’t get better — but can the Mets afford the inevitable mistakes while he learns “on the job”, when he’s hitting below .240?

Which brings us to the crux of the matter: Murphy was anointed the starting leftfielder during the first week of February because he was “a better hitter than Ryan Church”. Most recently, he was shoehorned into first base to “keep his bat in the lineup”. But as has been stated before on this blog, because of his lack of power and only average running speed, Murphy needs to hit at least .300 — if not .320 — to justify hiding his glove on the diamond. But he hasn’t been near .300 since early May, and the scouting reports have caught up with the holes in his swing. Eventually, he may make an adjustment, but, again, will he hit enough to be a first baseman on a team starving for power and that plays in a park built for speed?

More importantly, take one look at Dan Murphy’s face and you can see that confidence has drained from him. He has an expression that seems to ask “why am I failing?” or “do I belong here?”. The brashness and focused intensity that helped him hit last summer is gone — he now looks relieved to take a walk. When he does rap a line drive for a hit, it’s nearly always either off of a pitcher who belongs in AAA, and/or the result of a mistake by a pitcher leaving the ball waist-high over the middle of the plate. There’s nothing wrong with a “mistake hitter” if those mistakes are sent over the fence. But if you are a “mistake” singles hitter, then you better have blazing speed or flash a gold glove at a skill position.

The bottom line is, it’s time to send him to AAA to a) get his confidence back; b) learn to play 1B; and c) continue developing his skills and baseball education in an environment that is more forgiving and less pressured than a pennant race in NYC.

Similarly, it could be time to send Fernando Martinez back to Buffalo. He has proven that he has the raw skills to play MLB one day, and be, at minimum, a solid all-around ballplayer. But that day is not today, and may not be for a while. F-Mart does not appear overmatched, but he’s also merely “keeping up” and not embarrassing himself — neither of which are the same as “productive”. What’s most telling is that when the Mets promoted him, he was in the middle of an on-fire hot streak. From the numbers he was putting up, it appeared he was “in the zone” — kind of like Dan Murphy was ripping apart AA just prior to his callup last July. So it’s possible that the .216 AVG / .310 OBP / .294 SLG is his zenith at this point of his career. Optimists may suggest the opposite — perhaps he can go on a similar tear at this level, this year. I’m not so sure.

What I really like about seeing Fernando Martinez in the lineup every day is the athleticism he adds. But the truth is, there’s someone on the 25-man roster who can offer a very similar skillset, and likely better performance: Jeremy Reed. One day, if the scouts are right, F-Mart will surpass Reed by leaps and bounds, but at this moment in time, I think Reed gives the Mets the same or better defense, the same or better speed, the same or better bat, and better all-around fundamentals — something that Martinez will develop with more time and experience.

What keeps both Murphy and Martinez on the roster, of course, is the dearth of talent below them. The question is, who in the Mets’ minor league system can provide more value than those two youngsters?

A quick look shows that Mike Lamb is stinking it up in AAA, Javier Valentin is hitting a robust .260, and Nick Evans is struggling in AA. Career minor leaguer Jesus Feliciano is hitting .300 for Buffalo, but is the same player as Reed — singles hitter, above-average speed, lefthanded outfielder. Josh Thole is lighting it up in AA, but he’s a catcher, and what the Mets need right now is punch from 1B and LF. As mentioned a few days ago, Wily Mo Pena is getting his bat going, so he’s a possibility. But otherwise, it looks as though at least one of Murphy and Martinez will remain on the roster unless a potent bat is brought in from outside the organization.

There is no doubt that Murphy is a great kid in that he works excessively hard, hustles, and is a student of the game. Continuing to put him at first base and wait for him to hit like he did last August is unfair to everyone.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude June 15, 2009 at 4:20 pm
    The sad state of affairs in Met land is that there really are no better options in AAA than what Murphy and Martinez can give. Sheffield can’t play everyday, and ideally needs a left-handed platoon parnter in LF. I simply don’t trust Jeremy Reed as someone getting 50% of the LF at-bats, and see Cory Sullivan and Jesus Feliciano as no better options than FMart. And to be completely frank, I’m ready to give as many at-bats to the young guys for the rest of this season as possible, as I don’t see the Mets as a playoff team. FMart’s maturation is arguably far better served with the Mets than in Buffalo. If the Mets continue to lose with Reed or Wily Mo splitting time with Shef, they gain nothing; but if they stick with FMart, at least his development can be gained.

    Same with Murphy. He’s proven he can hit at the big league level before, so I say just keep throwing him out there until he figures it out. He’s certainly not costing the Mets any runs with his defense, and is a very valuable pinch hitter when Jerry decides to start Tatis at 1B instead. Additionally, sending Murphy down does nothing for his maturation. If he heads to Buffalo, hits .350 over 2 weeks, the Mets will be poised to call him right back up, yet there’s no guarentee his minor league success will translate at the major league level. He needs to fight thru his slump here, and he’ll become a better player because of it. Also, I know a big sticking point against Murph is his lack of power and speed, but there have been plenty of teams with 1B possessing Murph’s similar skillset and have been just fine. See Casey Kotchman with Anaheim, Conor Jackson in Arizona, James Loney in LA. So despite what Murph lacks, I’m confident the Mets can still win with him in the lineup, though I agree he needs to be much better than a .240 hitter for that to happen. That’s why I think he needs to be given at least until Delgado’s return to see if he can make that happen, because the Mets plans in 2010 and beyond are banking on what Murph does for the remainder of this season. And watching Murph tear it up in AAA helps the Mets very little in determining if he’ll be of assistance at the major league level.

  2. mic June 17, 2009 at 10:07 am
    My apologies.

    While you obviously are widely read, i and my blog-brothers and sisters have remissed in not adding to i-dude’s comment.

    I-dude and i do not share polarity in our views but i think we agree in hypothesis. No the farm is not deep, but it is not barren.

    – Agreed F-mart is not ready…nor was he expected to be. Before him l-millz and gomez was rushed from AA ball before their time at least F-mart STARTEd in AAA this yr albeit after a shortened AA season last yr, AND he comes as the Mets BEST performer at AAA ahead of said Javy Valentin, Lamb, Sullivan et al. furthermore he is the best fielder outside of CB and resembles very much one Alex Rios. his bat has more doubles in it than anyone we can call up, indeed healthy he is FAR better than Chip Ambres, Cory Sullivan, Emil Brown, Luis Rivera and other pretenders……at 20 yrs old.

    – D. Murphy. is 24. I like the comparisons to Jackson. I liken him to Overbay. Defensively he is not a black hole at 1st. In fact I see him as the Mets 1st baseman next yr. BUT will the organization be patient? He will NOT hit 319 in limited duty he NEEEDS regular at bats. He neeeds that 3-4 times per week. He needs to be sent down just to get his rhythm back. Organizationally they need a Doug Mink type to complement him next yr….but for now he needs to play 3-4 times WHILE Del is on the DL.

    -Organizationally there needs to be a decision on D. murphy to keep him or trade him. I think a club (such as the Nats) would love to slide him in to 1st base and let him become the next Nick Johnson.

    – A comment on Metsblog leads me to think the Mets could bring in a bat. I think Brad Hawpe is worth consideration.

    -One thing the Mets also need to adress is the pitching. Livian and Redding ARE not solutions anymore than D. murph and F-mart are. btw they new graphic at Metsblog with the WC standings makes the stakes that much more tangible. TheMets and Cards will now duke it out for the WC.