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.