No matter what the future may hold, one thing is 100% certain: Fernando Martinez will undoubtedly become a cautionary tale on how teams fail to properly evaluate their own talent, a cardinal sin for any organization, in any business.
Martinez, in five years, has gone from a four-time top 100 prospect by Baseball America who was repeatedly tied to trade rumors for All-Star caliber talent to getting exposed to, and eventually picked from, the waiver-wire. Among those names Martinez was tied to include: Adrian Gonzalez, Roy Halladay (where the Mets “bowed out” after his name was brought up in trade talks), Matt Holliday (who, again, wasn’t enough to convince the Mets’ brass to deal him), former reliever B.J. Ryan (once again, the team didn’t want to deal him; this time rightfully so), Jermaine Dye, Bobby Jenks, and Brian Giles.
Clearly, his name was tossed around quite a bit, and yet, the Mets eventually turned him into a zero return.
Interesting, isn’t it?
Martinez went from a high-end prospect that was highly valued in trade talks to, well, nothing. Someone along the line, be it former GM Omar Minaya or current GM Sandy Alderson, failed to correctly assess his value. The answer, though, is both men failed to do so.
Martinez has always been a projection-type guy, not production. His best overall season, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), was his first, in 2006. With the Hagerstown Suns of the Sally League; he hit .333/.389/.505 in 211 plate appearances, and was about 50% better than the league average. It could be argued that his 2009 season in Triple-A (.290/.337/.540 in 190 PA) was more impressive given his age at the time, 20, and level of competition. Either way, though, outside of those two seasons, though, he’s hovered closed to the league average.
Last season, the first in which he failed to appear on BA’s top 100 prospect list, he hit .260/.329/.417 in Buffalo, numbers that look worse than they actually are without the proper context. Yes, that stat line doesn’t scream top prospect, but he hadn’t received more than 300 plate appearances at one level in the same season since 2008; his walk rate showed significant improvement; he was only 22-years-old at the time; and his overall offensive production still topped the league average by five percent.
Why give him away for nothing? At worst, he’s a quality fourth outfielder capable of handling left, center, and right fields. While he no longer is a top prospect, he still has a ceiling similar to that of David DeJesus with a little more power and slightly less walks. Maybe it was the injuries that scared Alderson off? But why sell a productive minor league, which also happens to be former top prospect, for nothing?
Yes, Omar Minaya failed to capitalize on Fernando Martinez’s peak prospect value – and he also committed the organization’s second cardinal sin of not handling his development properly (read: too much promotion/demotion without earning it) – but current GM Sandy Alderson also failed to realize that Martinez is still going to be a valuable big leaguer.
Truthfully, acquiring Martinez is exactly the type of move the Astros need to make if they want to get back to respectability, and the type that the Mets need to avoid to help them get back to contention.
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