Judging F-Mart’s Debut

For once, I agree with Marty Noble. And it’s unfortunate.

Over at MetsBlog, Michael Baron stated, in response to Marty Noble’s somewhat harsh words for Fernando Martinez:

F-Mart’s brief stint in the big leagues was certainly disappointing, and yes his durability is a big question mark right now, but i remember when Reyes first came up and made his debut in 2003 against the Rangers… he came with all of the hype that F-Mart has garnered and instead of seeing that brilliance we saw someone who was over-matched at times, and dealing with a multitude of leg injuries for the better part of his first two seasons… i’ve been watching martinez either in the minors or during Spring Training for a number of years now, and this kid has a world of talent, and if he can stay healthy i feel he can still be a big part of this organization’s future at some point…

First, I am not going to disagree with Michael in regard to F-Mart’s raw talent — he absolutely has intriguing skills. (And I respect Michael’s opinion.) Anyone who displays average MLB skills at the tender age of 20 is talented, no question, and Martinez has shown MLB average running speed, bat speed, defensive skills, and arm strength. But where I have a problem is in comparing F-Mart’s less-than-impressive debut as a 20-year-old to that of Jose Reyes at the same age.

Indeed, Reyes did at times look overmatched as a 20-year-old — and as a 21-year-old as well. AT TIMES. In contrast, Fernando Martinez looked overmatched at the plate MOST OF THE TIME, and only at times (and few, at that) flashed the hitting skill that will ultimately determine his future as a big leaguer. Will Martinez ever display that skill often enough to make him an MLB regular? Maybe. We certainly hope so. Omar Minaya’s job, reputation, and career are staked on the theory that he will.

But forget about my opinion, or anyone else’s, when considering this comparison. Take a look at the numbers of both players at age 20:

Reyes: 274 ABs | 12 2B | 4 3B | 5 HR | 32 RBI | 13 SB | .307 AVG | .334 OBP | .769 OPS

Martinez: 91 ABs | 6 2B | 0 3B | 1 HR | 8 RBI | 2 SB | .176 AVG | .242 OBP | .517 OPS

It can be argued that Reyes had a much larger sample size in his debut. And it’s true that Reyes started off slowly. Since Martinez had exactly 100 plate appearances, it may be more fair to compare his numbers to Reyes’ first 100 PAs. If you don’t mind, I’m going to push it to 102 PAs, because it makes life easier when going through the game logs.

Reyes, first 102 PAs: 100 AB | 5 2B | 2 3B | 0 HR | 20 RBI | 2 SB | .250 AVG | .257 OBP | .627 OPS

Martinez, first 100 PAs: 91 ABs | 6 2B | 0 3B | 1 HR | 8 RBI | 2 SB | .176 AVG | .242 OBP | .517 OPS

Suddenly the numbers are closer, and they prove that Reyes clearly started to pick up his game after 100 PAs — which may have had something to do with feeding off confidence. Who knows, if Martinez had one big game and not injured his knee, he might have gone on a tear similar to what Reyes did from mid-July through the end of August 2003.

But there’s still a major difference between the two debuts, and it is in regard to raw MLB skills. Even when Reyes was struggling with the bat in his first month in the bigs, he displayed other-worldly speed, arm strength that recalled Shawon Dunston, and range that hinted at Rey Ordonez. Yes, he made some errors — mostly due to over-aggressiveness combined with poor judgment. But it was clear that even if his bat never came around, he would still prove to be an elite baserunner and a potential defensive wizard — playing a premium position.

In contrast, Fernando Martinez’s primary position was left field, where defense is the last consideration. Not that it mattered, because although F-Mart was more than adequate in the field, there was nothing eye-popping about his defense. And that pretty much sums up Martinez: adequate to more than adequate, but nothing eye-popping about any one area of his game. In fact, Carlos Gomez was more impressive, because despite his troubles at the plate, he displayed eye-popping defensive skills and blinding speed.

That said, until F-Mart shows something eye-popping — something distinctive, and extraordinary — I can’t allow him to be in the same conversation as Carlos Gomez, much less Jose Reyes. So you have to wonder if the other 29 GMs in MLB are thinking similarly. If so, his trade value isn’t much.

In time, that could change drastically. But right now, Fernando Martinez remains — to me — someone whose potential has yet to match the hype.

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. Mike January 2, 2010 at 12:02 pm
    I agree completely with your analysis, Joe. To me this is all evidence that the Mets need to hang on to F-Mart and leave him in AAA all season. His value is low and people trying to argue that trading him is a good idea have no idea how economics in baseball works.

    Ideal for Martinez is to leave him in Buffalo to prove he can stay healthy and see what kind of stats he can put up in a full season in AAA. Next offseason is when the team should try to trade him if his value goes back up and if the team decides trading him is the route they want to go. Unless he makes the team do something sooner by tearing it up in Buffalo

  2. Gregory Rojas January 2, 2010 at 12:38 pm
    I agree in part with your points, but you have to remember that hi is only 20, and he doesn’t have 100 at bat with the mets, i think they need to let him play a full season in AAA, and next year he will be ready to star in right field for the mets; please don’t give up.
  3. joejanish January 2, 2010 at 1:32 pm
    Gregory – yes he’s only 20 but at that age Reyes and Gomez already showed at least one extraordinary talent (speed) and possibly two (defense).

    I’m far from giving up, so in a twisted way I’m glad that F-Mart hasn’t yet expressed his power potential because his value might be much higher and the Mets might be inclined to trade him — or rush him to MLB. Does that make sense?

    In other words I’m with you — let’s see what he can do in a full year at AAA in 2010. Perhaps he will “break out” and display that extraordinary talent we’ve been hearing about since he was 17 years old.

  4. Paul January 2, 2010 at 3:00 pm
    I almost don’t care whether Fernando Martinez has any talent. When he manages to stay on the field all season, maybe I’ll being to think about him again.
  5. gary s. January 3, 2010 at 1:26 am
    when martinez is retired and selling cars in a few years, he will be remembered as the most overhyped “prospect/suspect” in mets history..
  6. Mike January 3, 2010 at 1:36 am
    Hey gary s, way to go man. Your snide comment about a 20 yr old kid who has never done anything to you personally except play for your “favorite” team and not perform to your expectations based on nothing but a few projections made when he was 17 really shows your enthusiasm for the Mets and the good fortunes of the franchise. Your analysis of his abilities as a used car salesman really speaks to your research on how quickly he has picked up the English language since coming over to the states.
  7. Harry Chiti January 3, 2010 at 10:25 am
    Mike: Great post….
  8. gary s. January 3, 2010 at 1:00 pm
    mike, happy new year to u 2..are u familiar with the term “tongue in cheek” remark.i’d like to see martinez become a star for the mets in the next couple of years as much as anybody.besides always being injured, showing pedestrian skills in his 91 at bats last year and not hustling, what have u seen that i haven’t that would indicate he is a star in the making?? i’m just tired of the met hype machine on this guy..if they were smart, they would leave him at triple a for 500 ab’s and just see what he can do.i doubt that will be the case in 2010..
  9. mic January 4, 2010 at 10:56 am
    Fmart has had several forerunners to the title of future Mets CF. Angel Pagan, Millz and Gomez. All 3 could be/are starting CFs in MLB but not on the Mets. All 3 had to leave the Mets just to have a chance.

    I can see Fmart going the same way with a whole lot of teams looking for a chance to hook him (cheap).

    On a NEW topic ….Metsmerized have an EXCELLENT column on Dave Magadan. You have probably (not likely) noted that I think the Mets may see Hojo as a future Manager, but I think Magadan should be considered too if not as a future hitting coach.