Tim Marchman is one of my favorite baseball writers. He does really good work, and is putting intelligent baseball commentary in front of casual fans who pick up a Wall Street Journal or Sports Illustrated. He combines the ability to write with a real understanding of how baseball works. I have a lot of respect for him.
So, that’s why I was shocked to read this. It’s one thing to be kind of skeptical of Fernando Martinez, who has received more attention than he’s warranted thanks to being a prospect in a New York farm system. All Mets and Yankees prospects get too much exposure. This isn’t new.
But to question Martinez on the basis of surface level mediocre minor league performances is a trap that too many statistical writers have fallen into over the years.
We talked about Justin Upton this afternoon. He hit .263/.343/.416 in his first pro season in low-A ball in 2006. Considering the hype, there were lots of questions about why he was just an average player in a league full of guys who were never going to see the big leagues. He turned out just fine, I think.
Likewise, Hanley Ramirez was a scout favorite with a minor league track record that didn’t match the tools. Before the Red Sox traded him, he was just okay in low-A, high-A, and Double-A, and his .279/.340/.412 line in Double-A had a lot of people calling him overrated.
Or, hey, let’s talk about Miguel Cabrera. He was getting remarkable hype as a teenager, but from looking at his performance through 2002, you’d wonder why – he hit .268/.328/.382 in low-A in 2001 and .274/.333/.421 in high-A in 2002. Not exactly the kind of numbers that make you think that he was developing into one of the best hitters of all time.
If you were starting a franchise from scratch, Ramirez, Upton, and Cabrera would be near the top of your list of guys that you’d want to build around. They all posted mediocre minor league performances, because their teams saw the natural talent and pushed them aggressively through the minor leagues. All three took massive steps forward, seemingly overnight, to go from high ceiling prospect to superstar in no time flat.
These types of players don’t develop on a slow and steady pace. They get challenged, they struggle, and when they figure it out, they get good in a hurry. I’m not suggesting that Martinez is going to going to reach Ramirez/Upton/Cabrera heights, but just like it was wrong to question those guys abilities when they struggled against more experienced pitchers, it’s wrong to write off Martinez just because he hasn’t figured out pitch recognition yet.
It’d be in the Mets best interest to let Martinez continue to develop in Triple-A, but suggesting that they should trade him for Mark DeRosa is a great way to look really, really bad in 20 years.