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.