F-Mart and Francoeur

A few days ago, Fernando Martinez was inexplicably promoted to MLB after hitting .255 in AAA Buffalo.

I say “inexplicably” because the Mets offered no explanation for demoting Jesus Feliciano — who was doing a more than acceptable job in his role of fourth / fifth outfielder — and promoting Martinez, who has been struggling all season, both with injuries and with the bat.

Martinez has been the crown jewel of the Omar Minaya Era since the day he signed as a 16-year-old in July 2005 for $1.4M. When signed, he was touted as a “5-tool player” with “outstanding power”, compared to Ted Williams, and was a “can’t miss”.

He was impressive for a 17-year-old playing against older competition in 2006, and continued to hold his own as an 18-year-old in AA in ’07, but that was also the year the injuries began. His entire pro career has been one where he’s shown enough skills to compete, but never dominate. The awesome power and hitting skills that drew comparisons to Teddy Ballgame have never materialized, perhaps partially because of the chronic injuries. Yet, the Mets continued to force-feed him to the next level — all the way up to the big leagues. Why? Because he’s a “can’t miss” — he’s not ALLOWED to miss.

So, for the second straight year, Fernando Martinez has been promoted to the MLB team as an audition — despite being not ready, despite the fact he’d be better off honing his skills in the minors.

Because Martinez has had injuries impede his progress every year for the past four years, it has been suggested by many pundits that a full year of regular play might be the best thing for his development. We can only assume the Mets would think similarly — it is a logical proposition after all.

And when his promotion was announced, we all assumed he would fill in for the injured Jason Bay in LF and play nearly every day — just as he was promoted last May to fill in for various injured outfielders.

But he’s NOT going to play every day — at least, that’s what Jerry Manuel has announced. After a brief arm wrestling match meeting with Jeff Francoeur, Manuel told the world that there would be a platoon between Francoeur and Martinez, only not really, because Francoeur would face righthanders as well, “when matchups are favorable”.


Despite the fact I disagree with the promotion of F-Mart, I more strongly disagree with the plan of a platoon. Further, I vehemently disagree with the notion of a not-really-platoon where Jeff Francoeur gets the bulk of the playing time. I say this in spite of the fact I really, really like Jeff Francoeur (no sarcasm). Because there is absolutely no point in Fernando Martinez existing on a roster at any level where he’s not playing every day. The kid needs reps, at-bats, innings, and as much playing time as possible. Contrary to Omar Minaya’s belief, four random at-bats over several days at the MLB level do not do more for a 21-year-old than 35 at-bats a week at any other level.

If Fernando Martinez was dominating the lower levels — meaning, if the competition wasn’t good enough to humble him — then I would understand the promotion to MLB. But when a kid is hitting .255 with a .787 OPS … well, I’m not sure that qualifies as “dominating”.

Should F-Mart catch fire and eventually take the LF job outright and hit better than .260 with a few homers, Omar Minaya will look very smart. If Martinez falters, the excuse will be that “he’s only 21, and still hasn’t gotten into a rhythm because of the injuries”. That’s why Martinez — and not Jesus Feliciano, Lucas Duda, or Nick Evans — is on the 25-man roster right now. Because F-Mart CANNOT miss, and Minaya cannot lose by promoting him.

Is that the way to “develop” the crown jewel of your organization? Because it makes sense from a PR standpoint, or because it helps justify a GM’s job? You be the judge.

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. Kevin August 10, 2010 at 11:40 am
    It’s amazing to me that the FMART steroid rumors disappeared a couple of years ago. FMART has been injured or underperforming ever since. Are we that bad at talent evaluation or is there more to this story of FMART?
    • Mark from Manhasset August 10, 2010 at 12:33 pm
      Also amazing that every player Omar Minaya is famous for discovering is linked to steroids

      Juan Gonzalez
      Sammy Sosa
      Ivan Rodriguez
      Ruben Sierra
      Fernando Tatis
      Fernando Martinez

      • Joe Janish August 10, 2010 at 5:14 pm
        Mark, I don’t think Minaya “discovered” Ruben Sierra — Sierra was signed in 1982 and Minaya wasn’t scouting for the Rangers until ’85 (I think).

        And I’m not so sure Minaya was the one who found Pudge, though he may have been their scouting director by then (1988).

  2. Rich Morey August 10, 2010 at 12:16 pm
    I agree with you. If you are gonna promote the kid to the MLB then let him play! Otherwise, leave him in AAA where he can get more ABs.
  3. Steve from Norfolk August 10, 2010 at 12:51 pm
    They’ve got to be trying to build his value back up to use him in a trade for pitching – the only thing we REALLY have to trade for. That and anybody that can reliably hit the ball!
  4. joe bourgeois August 10, 2010 at 1:00 pm
    Shrewd assessment, I think — F-Mart is one of the very few cards Minaya has at this point to justify his employment.

    But I think it’s possible that the cause and effect goes the other way — that one or both Wilpons, in the midst of grilling Minaya, got told about the wonders of the current regime’s Latin American scouting, and Minaya got told to put his money where his mouth was.

  5. Mic August 10, 2010 at 1:13 pm
    F-mart is trapped. Duda and CPT Kirk are the AAA tandem and Mets OF future. Fmart needs to play in the majors or go.

    Kinda similar to what happened to a few Mets prospects- Angel Pagan and Lastings Milledge.

    Personally I think Fmart should be 4th OF …THAT is the next level of progression, just as Angel was the yr before last. That said I think CPT Kirk SHOULD be the RF next yr. Hopefully with Bay in LF (bounceback yr) and Pagan in CF, plus French-CPT K in RF. French can sub in CF, Angel in LF/RF plus CPT K can play CF.

    Beltran can turn around this yrs playoffs. I think a trade will light him up.

    • Joe Janish August 10, 2010 at 5:21 pm
      Comparing F-Mart’s career path to Pagan’s doesn’t make sense — Pagan played in about 600 minor league games before reaching MLB (with the Cubs). Further, Pagan spent two seasons as a backup for the Cubs before joining the Mets’ bench.

      In contrast, F-Mart has played in less than 350 games in the minors and another 30 in MLB.

      But let’s take your plan of following Pagan’s “progression” and give F-Mart another two years in the minors to fully develop all of his skills, THEN add him to the MLB roster as a fourth outfielder.

      • Mic August 10, 2010 at 5:47 pm
        ‘Pagan spent 2 yrs as a back up cub’ …joe exactly my point ….AND he could have done that as a Met…..Either Fmart hits or he shuttles …(Gomez/milledge)..BUT he can play as a 4th OFer…..just like Pagan did.
        • Joe Janish August 10, 2010 at 9:46 pm
          So … you think F-Mart will develop by playing in 50 MLB games per year for two years, rather than playing full seasons in AAA?

          He’s going to learn by osmosis?

          If watching will make his game better then why not just tell him to watch 4 games a day on videotape all winter?

  6. Mic August 10, 2010 at 1:14 pm
    PS- Orioles are 6-1 under Showalter…Mgr not making a difference?
  7. MetFanBoston August 10, 2010 at 2:03 pm
    Are you blogging about Fernando Martinez or Alex Ochoa? I get my 5-tool Mets prospects mixed up.
    • Joe Janish August 10, 2010 at 5:31 pm
      Alex Ochoa or Alex Escobar?

      Or Ambiorix Concepcion? Ryan Thompson? Shawn Abner? Billy Beane(!)? Steve Henderson?

      harumph … i get my 5-tool future superstar OFs mixed up too!

  8. Steve from Norfolk August 11, 2010 at 1:10 pm
    No, Joe. We’re talking about Stanley Jefferson. I mean Benny Agbayani. Or was it Victor Diaz?