Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 28, 2009
BASEBALL: F-Mart Blue Light Special
Necessity makes a fool of the best laid plans, but I'm still ambivalent at best about Fernando Martinez being rushed to the majors, and even moreso after watching him fail to run out a popup last night (I think it was only last night, this week has blown my sense of time). Martinez has been an impressively touted prospect since he batted .333/.389/.505 in the Sally League at age 17 in 2006, but at every step since then he's put up decidedly mediocre numbers until arriving at Norfolk this season, where a recent hot streak pushed him to .291/.337/.552. Yet the Mets keep promoting him, on the theory that the numbers are good for his age.
There are four drawbacks to this approach. Number one, of course, is if it turns out the guy's not the age you thought he was. Number two is if his growth stalls - Andy Marte, for example, dined out on the "good for his age" bit until he ceased improving. Martinez is more athletic than Marte, but it's still a concern. Number three - exemplified by the popup incident - is if the prospect doesn't work hard enough on the details of his game because he knows he doesn't have to earn promotions. Immaturity is a universal at Martinez' age, and even the most dedicated young athletes sometimes need to be pushed to get everything out of their talent. And number four is the problem of getting overwhelmed and never really mastering the levels he's at - Martinez has never learned to steal bases despite good speed, and with the exception of one 3-game stop he's never drawn more than 47 walks per 600 plate appearances at any level, while consistenly averaging about 2.7 strikeouts per walk. (The fifth problem is arbitration eligibility, but that's less of an issue for a team like the Mets).
That's not to say that rapid promotions are all bad - it more or less worked out for Jose Reyes (although in the interim the Mets suffered through terrible plate discipline from Reyes as a leadoff hitter in his early years, plus he's never entirely gotten away from annoying mental mistakes). I'm generally all for skipping levels if a guy has had great results at AA. But once the immediate emergency passes in right field, I'd like to see Martinez put together at least one season of really being a consistent minor league hitter before bringing him into the big leagues for good.