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Did the Mets rush Fernando Martinez?

Feb 6, 2010, 7:49 PM EDT

FMart.jpgLast night, I found myself in a pretty interesting to-and-fro with Sam Page of the excellent Amazin’ Avenue about whether Fernando Martinez was rushed in his development. It was spurred on, at least initially, by what Martinez told Jesse Sanchez of this week:

“I know I’m a big league player, and I can perform at a high level,”
Martinez said. “It’s in my hands, so I have to keep working hard and
maybe earn a spot. Maybe I make it to the big leagues with the Mets or
maybe another team, but I know I can do it. I just have to keep working
and waiting for my opportunity.”

This sounds like the simple disappointment of a competitive
young man who realizes they’d be more useful than Gary Matthews, Jr., so
it’s hard to blame him there, but I also believe it is indicative of
Martinez putting too much stock into the considerable “New York hype”
that has been thrust upon him since he signed out of the Dominican
Republic at the age of 16. After all, it’s pretty easy to do so when
people begin to call you the “Teenage Hitting Machine” on message boards and blogs without, you
know, actually seeing you physically hit a baseball.

Martinez, or “F-Mart” as he is so often called these days, is no longer a teenager, but he is only 21
years old. Fellow outfield prospects Desmond Jennings, Domonic Brown
and Michael Taylor are all older than him. When the Mets called him up
from Triple-A Buffalo at age 20 last May, he became the team’s
youngest position player to make their major league debut since Jose
Reyes did it at age 19 in 2003. It was an incredibly small sample size,
but he looked over-matched during two brief stints with the big club,
batting .176/.242/.275 with one home run and eight RBI in 91 at-bats
before sustaining a injury to his right knee that required
season-ending surgery.

Many believe that the Mets have made a habit of promoting him in
spite of various injuries and mixed results. A large part of my
criticism is that he needlessly started the 2007 season with Double-A
Binghamton at age of 18 with just 76 professional games under his belt,
including a .193 batting average in 119 at-bats for High-A St. Lucie.
As Page astutely pointed out in our conversation, it was Tony
Bernazard’s M.O. to challenge the most physically gifted players, so
while I can understand someone playing against more advanced competition
when warranted, I feel it became a legitimate concern with Martinez as the injuries
began to pile up.

In order to expand the conversation, below I asked a pair of
prospect gurus for their opinion on whether Martinez was “rushed” in
his development. First, we have John Sickels of the indispensable Minor
League Ball

Yes, I think he was rushed. The Mets made a big push to be aggressive
with Latin American players in recent years, and I think the combination of this
factor plus Martinez’s health problems slowed his development, or at least made
it more difficult to see exactly what kind of player he is. That said, he’s
still quite young and showed signs of developing his power last year in
Triple-A. He’s still a very good prospect and still very young. I pointed out in
my book this year that he was the equivalent of a college sophomore last season.
If a college sophomore was drafted and hit .290/.337/.540 in Triple-A right
away, everyone would be talking about what a wonderful prospect he is. I don’t
think the Mets have handled him too well, but it is way too soon to be down on
Martinez. People should still be excited about him.

And here we have Toby Hyde, who has followed Martinez’s progression through his website Mets Minors:

The big rush job came with his
initial assignment in 2007; rather than send the then 18-year old Martinez back
to St. Lucie, the Mets pushed him to AA Binghamton. He was ok, hitting .271/.336/.377 but injuries limited his
time. The Mets had no choice but
to return him to Binghamton in ’08. At the time of his MLB debut on May 26, 2009, he was clearly the best
choice for the Mets after crushing AAA pitching in the month of May.

There are really three moments when
the Mets rushed Martinez: his assignment to Hagerstown in 2006, and his early
August promotion to St. Lucie the same year and then his initial assignment to
Binghamton to begin 2007.  In the
last two years, the Mets have slowed Martinez down, although in part I suspect
that that has to do with the fact that there was nowhere else for him to

It’s popular to be down on Martinez right now, but I’m not so sure
that’s a bad thing. A full — and hopefully healthy — season under the radar
at Triple-A Buffalo should have him sufficiently major-league ready for
the start of 2011. We can disagree about how the Mets have handled him
up until this point, but there’s still plenty to look forward to here.

* Coincidentally, Martinez homered for Puerto Rico on Saturday afternoon in Venezuela, his second home run of Caribbean Series against Mexico.

  1. Edgy DC - Feb 6, 2010 at 11:30 PM

    Maybe he was rushed two and three seasons ago, but it’s sure not looking bad with the season he put up in 2009. I guess you can make a connection between the alleged rushing and his injuries, but that would seem pretty speculative to me.
    Sickels seems to tip his hand a little bit when he says “or at least made it more difficult to see exactly what kind of player he is.” Calling him rushed may be a little self-serving for guys who track minor leaguers.

  2. John Pileggi - Feb 7, 2010 at 9:53 AM

    They absolutely rushed him, but did not have much of a choice given the injuries in 2009. He also has been considered one of the few commodities that had trade value, so part of it may have been showcasing. Hopefully, he gets a full year at AAA and comes up in September. Of course, if Bay gets hurt, all bets may be off.

  3. Old Gator - Feb 7, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    Sounds like the frat boys in the front office rushed him right down the Phi Beta Crapper.
    Now down here in Macondo, the frats over at the University of Miami used to be much more imaginative about how they treated the soft pink young plebes.
    Or whatever they called them.
    What they would do was, they would take them down to the wooden barricade the Coral Gables cops put up every night across Old Cutler Road just south of the North Kendall Drive intersection because the giant land crabs migrated from the mangrove hammocks east of Old Cutler to the hardwood hammocks on the west for a frenzied night of mating (something, incidentally, the frat boys never learned from studying those crabs how to do at their parties without also expending a fortune on beer and Ripple) – a kind of Alien Sex Files I without the blondes, but then all the crabs were gray – and then they’d migrate back across Old Cutler (the crabs, I mean) to the hammocks with, well, with smiles on their faces and their eyes dragging the pavement at the end of their drooping stalks. So the cops put up these barricades to keep cars from crunching the crabs into slicks (and occasionally blowing a tire) and motorcyclists from flying out of control when they hit these slicks of splattered crab (and this was back in the days before the Republicans in the State Legislature under King George’s slack-jawed, beady-eyed smarter younger brother revoked the Florida helmet law, granting our cyclists their God-given freedom to really cause themselves brain damage, as though a Republican needed permission to do that in the first place). Then the cops would come back in the morning and swing the barricades away. Okay now, what the frat boys would do was, take these poor dopey rich boy pledges and blindfold them and take their shoes off and make them run down Old Cutler road past the barricade barefoot right through the migrating crabs. Really. I’ve heard the rumors myself.
    And yes, it’s true – some of those kids never came back.

  4. TF in Tampa - Feb 7, 2010 at 2:47 PM

    And what am I doing this beautiful Superbowl Sunday afternoon, but surfing CTB posts an looking for a fresh, new ‘Old Gator’ story.
    Well, I got my fix! Now what to do about it?
    All I can say to you ‘OG’ is I don’t where in that apocryphal, deceptive, mythological [I could go on describing but this covers the basics] mind of yours all these brainwave derived thoughts and ideas originate from.
    But fear not fellow readers, the sun shall set tonight, the ocean is blue, mankind will continue to die and pay taxes, and Gator will, I’m sure, digress again. Not that it is a bad thing, but try and help us mere mortals understand what it is your saying. We are truly interested.
    Today’s thread is somewhat understandable.
    Yesterday’s, FOGET ABOUT IT!!!

  5. Old Gator - Feb 7, 2010 at 5:19 PM

    TF, when you’ve lived down here in the tropics long enough things like giant crab migrations will seem second nature to you. If you’ve got some free time this afternoon, why not take a ride down I-75 to Cape Coral or Fort Myers and chat with some of the animal control officers about the plague of giant monitor lizards they’re dealing with right now.
    Think I’m kidding? Heh heh, bet your adopted region is about to become much more interesting to you. And on the way home, be sure to stop in at the Ringling Circus Museum and visit, among other things, the hall of horse drawn steam calliope wagons. Really. There’s all sorts of great shit hidden out there in the Florida fens. We ought to grab a cooler and go out poaching ghost orchids some sunny afternoon.

  6. D.J. Short - Feb 7, 2010 at 5:28 PM

    I don’t mind last season because of the unique circumstances surrounding the team. I’m critical of the entire organizational philosophy for prospects under Bernazard. Hopefully things will improve with him out of the way.

  7. TF in Tampa - Feb 8, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    Just catching up with my morning reading, I am a football fan also as you might remember from my wild card Jets brief stint with potential glory vs. the Colts 2 wks ago. I was looking forward to visiting your town with my longtime buds from up north. It was not meant to be but good while it lasted.
    BTW, from your prospective, how is the post-Miami Madness superbowl circus arena winding down? Something tells me your glad its over! And yes, I have much to learn about our state and its mystical nuances, starting with Ringling. Although, I might need some coercing to go out poaching ghost orchids. Is it legal and/or money making, as that might persuade me?
    The cooler idea investigating calliope wagons in Sarasota is workable. I’ll have my people contact your people to arrainge.

  8. Omar Minaya - Feb 8, 2010 at 9:36 AM

    Hey… maybe this guy can catch for us…

  9. Old Gator - Feb 8, 2010 at 10:29 AM

    Poaching ghost orchids is not only illegal and financially rewarding, but delicious. I use defatted chicken broth, one clove of garlic, crushed, and a light sauterne.
    See my comments on the Stupor Bowl about two posts above. Yeah, things are blessedly winding down here – like pus draining from an inguinal abcess. It’ll soon be time to plan my road trip up to the Feesh spring training facility to watch this year’s travesty begin to unfold. They also usually play a couple of games at the Orioles’ facility on Commercial Boulevard just west of I-95 in Fort Lauderdale before moving on to Joeprodolsharklife Stadium where the really heavy-duty economizing gets into full swing leading up to the July salary dumping deadline.
    In any case I’m looking forward to this year’s crop of soft pink EYPs, and to figuring out which ones will wind up sinking back into the oblivion of the lower A’s where they’ll eventually be reprocessed for ethanol. As for the good ones, maybe I’ll start taking bets on which teams they’ll eventually be traded to as they approach arbitration eligibility. There are some offshores I use that will figure the odds for me.

  10. Laronda Deremer - Feb 13, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    Basic safety is such an significant factor that it is almost always a pleasure to determine such exceptional campaigns set forth to promote basic safety.

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