Yesterday’s news of the Mets placing former stud prospect Fernando Martinez on waivers created a flurry of positive, negative, and somewhere-in-between reactions. Many people felt that “other” players could have gotten the boot–like D.J. Carrasco, who is not a 23 year-old with a “high ceiling.” Others sided adamantly with the organization with quips of: “Good grief.” Then there were the “wise” retrospective few who claimed, “I would have traded him years ago.” In this situation, there really isn’t a correct answer. Regardless, Fernando Martinez’s former-stature as a top prospect represented such a meaningful and hopeful period in Mets history. At the very least, the guy is deserving of a career breakdown to truly understand the man that was supposed to save the Mets outfield. With the injury-investigative help of Toby Hyde, Rising Apple did just that.
2005: The New York Mets signed the 16 year-old Fernando Martinez as an amateur free agent. Then-GM Omar Minaya handed the Dominican Republic-native a $1.4 million signing bonus.
2006: The Mets eagerly started Martinez in Single-A, where he manhandled pitchers to the tune of a .333/.389/.505 line with 5 HR, 28 RBI, 24 R, and 7 SB in 211 PA’s. Due to his bat work, the Mets again promoted the young outfielder to Advanced-A, however, he did not fair nearly as well (.193/.254/.387 line with 5 HR, 11 RBI, 18 R, and 1 SB in 130 PA’s). The 17 year-old owned an impressive .279/.336/.457 line with 10 HR, 39 RBI, 43 R, and 8 SB in 345 PA’s combined in 2006, but as promising as it was, it was also the start of a very brittle career. Martinez endured his first two (of many) injuries during 2006, featuring a bone bruise/strainged ligament in his right thumb (out from 5/10/2006 to 6/7/2006), and a right knee sprain (out from 6/10/2006 to 7/18/2006). Injuries aside, F-Mart was picked as a SAL Mid-Season All-Star, AFL Rising Star, and to the AFL All-Prospect Team.
2007: Martinez was officially a “top prospect,” as Baseball America tabbed the 18 year-old the “22nd Best Prospect in Baseball.” The outfielder started 2007 in Double-A Binghamton, but the results were a mixed bag (.271/.336/.377 line). He posted a decent .336 OBP, but his promising pop from 2006 was gone, as he smacked just 4 HR in 269 PA’s. His disappointing season took a turn for the worse in June when the youngster broke his right hamate bone (right hand), and missed a whopping 72 games. He would return to action on 7/29/2007, but just in the form of 10 PA’s for the Mets’ Gulf Rookie team (for rehab purposes). Despite the mediocre season overall (.265/.331/.376 line with 4 HR, 22 RBI, 33 R, and 3 SB in 269 PA’s), Baseball America propped him up two places in their pre-2008 prospect ratings (to #20), and he made his first Futures Game Selection.
2008: From a health perspective, 2008 still reigns as his most “successful” season. F-Mart collected a whopping 400 PA’s, mostly at Double-A, and swatted an impressive (overall) .292/.345/.440 line with 8 HR, 43 RBI, 50 R, and 6 SB. The oft-injured outfielder “only” missed time from 5/15/2008 to 6/27/2008 and from 7/25/2008 to 8/4/2008 with a right hamstring strain. Similar to 2007, Martinez was selected to the Futures Game–this time, more deserving. As exciting as Martinez’s maturation was during 2008, it would represent something–unfortunately–more important. It was his last healthy season as a Met.
2009: Still a top-rated prospect by Baseball America (slide to #30), F-Mart was making big strides despite starting the year with an elbow strain injury (“rested” it for three weeks in February). The 20 year-old began the season at Triple-A–his first taste at the level–and responded very well. The outfielder swatted an impressive .290/.337/.540 line with 8 HR, 28 RBI, 24 R, and 2 SB in 190 PA’s. In addition to his exposure to more advanced pitching in Triple-A, the Mets recalled the youngster in late-May to the show. He didn’t hit particularly well (.176/.242/.275 in 100 PA’s), but fans were still excited to see the so-called “future.” Yet, despite his production in Triple-A and promotion to the Majors, he was only able to collect 290 total PA’s due to a torn meniscus in his right knee on July 3, with the surgery (July 14) knocking him out for the year.
2010: Martinez returned to Triple-A following his knee “recovery,” but his durability was officially a major concern (he dropped forty-seven places to #77 on Baseball America’s list). His inevitable first injury (on 5/14/2010) was fortunately on his other leg (left hamstring strain), but the hitter still missed 23 games. The 21 year-old swatted away at Triple-A, hitting a .253/.317/.455 line with 12 HR, 33 RBI, 39 R, and 1 SB in 287 PA’s. In addition, Martinez also garnered 22 PA’s in the Major Leagues, but his unimpressive .167/.273/.167 line and 22.7% K% proved his bat was still not ready for the show. Despite the brew-ha-ha over his Minor League homerun total, the hitter’s poor walk rate (5.9% BB%) and unacceptable strikeout rate (22.6% K%) were the better indicators of his abilities as a hitter. And as if Martinez needed any other bad luck, the prospect felt right knee “soreness” in late-August, forcing him to miss 15 games, and ending his season on a low note. In November, the 21 year-old Martinez would be diagnosed with arthritis in his knee.
2011: Going into 2011, very little was expected of Martinez. Still young aged aside (a mere 22 years), the outfielder was no longer a top prospect. Baseball America dropped him from their Top-100 list, and even the previously-supportive John Sickels of Minor League Ball demoted Martinez from a B+ Prospect to a B- Prospect, claiming that the hitter: “May need a change of scenery.” In many ways, the Mets probably wished they had thought of that in 2009 when he still had significant trade value. F-Mart posted a mediocre .260/.329/.417 line with 8 HR, 30 RBI, 29 R, and 0 SB in 250 PA’s for Triple-A, and an uninspiring .227/.261/.455 line in 23 PA’s for the Mets. While Martinez didn’t suffer an extensive injury like his torn meniscus back in 2009, a barrage of three injuries (a right hamstring strain from 4/13/2011 to 4/23/2011, a left hip flexor strain from 7/16/2011 to 7/30/2011, and a left wrist strain from 8/16/2011 to the end of the season) forced him to miss a collective 45 games in 2011. His future as a reliable Major League player was growing bleaker by the day.
2012: On January 9, the Mets decided to place Fernando Martinez on waivers to make room on the 40-man roster.
The decision only came as a surprise given Martinez’s former prospect status, but considering the fact that F-Mart had repeated Triple-A three times (with each year being gradually inferior to the last) and his continual inability to stay healthy, the waiver move made sense. Martinez’s incredible volume of injuries–11 to be exact–was not only a major bummer to expecting fans, but it prevented much-needed development in his crucial development years. Saying goodbye to Fernando Martinez is almost like admitting our hope for the past seven years has been for null. But facts are fact–Martinez proved incapable of mastering Triple-A, and without the ability to stay healthy enough to produce mediocre production, he is hardly worthy of a coveted roster spot. And with that, we say, “Fair-well, Fernando. And best of luck.”