2009 Analysis: Fernando Martinez

fernando-martinezEver since signing out of the Dominican Republic as a 17-year-old in 2005, fans anxiously awaited the debut of young man touted as the next Mets superstar.

Thud.

That was the sound of “F-Mart” falling flat in his first shot at the big leagues.

However, it doesn’t mean Fernando will be a bust — quite the contrary. His 2009 MLB debut taught us quite a bit about his skill set, and suggested that he does have a future in the big leagues. The main question is, when will that future begin?

Martinez appeared in 29 ballgames, with nearly equal work in all three outfield positions. In all three spots, F-Mart held his own, displaying good range in the corner spots, decent jumps, and an above-average arm. In centerfield he was adequate to average, but has the raw skills to handle the position well if given the chance to develop there — all he really needs is to further work on reading the flight of the ball and gaining the confidence necessary to take charge as the outfield “captain”.

Offensively, Martinez teetered between looking like an average Major League hitter and getting overmatched. Some may think that’s a slight but it really isn’t — how many 20-year-olds are “average” MLB hitters? Like most young hitters, he needs to learn the strike zone, recognize pitches, understand his strengths and weaknesses, and develop the discipline to put it all together. He has a balanced stance and stride, and his swing is smooth if not consistent — sometimes it’s short, other times a little loopy. From what I’ve seen of him prior to entering the bigs, the loopy swing with the explosion of the hands through contact is the one that sends the ball sailing. But it looked to me as though he cut down his swing at times as a Met — possibly to make more contact, or to go to the opposite field?

Unfortunately, Fernando’s tenure in Flushing came to an unexpected end when he tore the meniscus in his right knee, requiring season-ending surgery. This was somewhat alarming, considering that the 20-year-old hasn’t played a full season at any level during his short pro career due to injuries. In 4 minor league seasons he’s played in 274 games — greatly impeding his development. Despite his inexperience, the Mets kept him on the fast track, and he’s held his own at every level below the bigs.

What he will become is hard to determine, and I don’t understand why he needs to be in a rush to get to “the show”. Most likely his main tool will be his bat, but he hasn’t had the opportunity to develop the homerun power that caused Omar Minaya to compare him to Juan Gonzalez and other sluggers. For most players, that takes time — more than the 1100 at-bats Martinez has seen as a pro. All in all, what I see is a raw kid who already has average MLB skills in most areas of his game, but does not yet show one overwhelming “plus”. The only negative he’s shown is an inconsistency in hustling, but that is more a product of environment and leadership — many 20-year-old kids need to be taught what’s right and wrong.

Bottom line is this: Fernando Martinez’s development as a power hitter will be his ultimate measurement as a big leaguer. Personally I don’t see him turning into a homerun hitter in MLB in 2010, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen in 2011 – 2013.

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. CatchDog November 23, 2009 at 10:21 am
    Great read Joe. Aside from the injuries, any arguement against FMart’s abilities and future should be answered with “but the kid was just 20″.

    In a few seasons, let’s hope that Martinez is an exciting seasoned veteran at 23 and we’re blogging about the future of then 20 year olds Wilmer Flores and Jefry Marte.

  2. Mike November 23, 2009 at 10:59 am
    Good assessment in my view (*takes off Tim McCarver hat*).

    I’ve been waiting to read your thoughts on Martinez, it is good to see an opinion other than trade him or give up on him entirely. Just because I don’t see him in the OF next year playing everyday does not mean he is a bust. The dude is 20 for heaven’s sake. He definitely has something to prove this season in AAA. Prove he can stay healthy is number one. Number two is proving he can hit. Both likely will take a full season in AAA to prove and that is okay with me.

    You know it’s funny but I feel like I entirely forgot about the not hustling from last year. It’s strange how the overall awfulness from last season completely overshadowed this red flag. Will this be a problem going forward? It seems that it is something he can learn not to do, but it certainly is concerning.

  3. joejanish November 23, 2009 at 12:36 pm
    Mike – the hustling issue is absolutely, postively a reflection of the Mets’ “minor league development” as well as MLB manager Jerry Manuel. I said as much when it happened yet many people missed that, saying I was “being harsh on F-Mart”.

    As you and CatchDog point out, the kid is 20 years old. The Mets have an opportunity to mold him (as well as every youngster in their system) into the type of player that hustles out EVERYTHING (not just deciding when to hustle). When F-Mart wasn’t punished for his first faux pas (the popup), it gave him license to dog it again THE VERY NEXT AT-BAT on a short fly to CF. Had he been properly reprimanded, my guess is he would’ve been standing on 2B when that Texas Leaguer dropped in front of Justin Maxwell.

    Part of it is the player “should know better”, but a larger part is the organization teaching the player what’s right and wrong.

  4. Mic November 23, 2009 at 2:31 pm
    I disagree with your ‘ultimate’ assessment. I dont think F-mart NEEDS to be Juan gon…Rather as u know I see him as the heir apparent to Beltran in CF. As such he could be permanently installed their in 2011 or 2012.

    Injuries happen. Jose Reyes was long described as oft injured. However WE cant help but think of Alex Escobar who succumbed to his oft injured state. Who knows maybe he will get stretched out and soon be able to see 300ABs. But I dont think there is a need to rush….and no need (partially because of him) to extend Carlos Beltran’s contract.

    My concern is his development as a hitter.

  5. joejanish November 23, 2009 at 2:42 pm
    Mic – I don’t know that F-Mart is going to develop into a Gold Glove centerfielder — especially considering the problems he’s already having with his legs. The Mets have been playing him in CF but talking about him as a corner OF, so who knows?

    Even if he does develop into an excellent CF, he’ll still need the power to step into Beltran’s shoes, as you suggest.

    Most inside the Mets organization are expecting his body to “fill out” and have more of a slugger’s physique, which might also cause him to slow down a step (the surgery can’t help either).

    He might as you suggest turn into an all-around player like Beltran, but that descriptor would still include power hitting.

    Or, he’s Jay Payton. Which isn’t bad, either.