Between the Mets stellar start to the season and Johan Santana‘s fresh-off-the-presses no-hitter, it’s sometimes easy to forget some of the more trivial things that have happened this year in Mets-land. One of those being the divorce between the New York Mets and long-time “can’t miss” prospect, Fernando Martinez. The Mets originally signed the outfielder when he was a wee 17 year-old out of the Dominican Republic–immediately touting him as the next best thing since sliced bread. But–to continue with the bread analogy–as Martinez’s career became riddled with injuries and flat-out disappointment, his status as a savior went stale. This led to his somewhat surprising waiver placement in January. However, with the Houston Astros recalling F-Mart today, it’s only normal to actually see how the former-prospect is doing.
On paper, Martinez is actually having a pretty sensational season in Triple-A. Now age 23 and seemingly injury-free, Martinez has enjoyed a fruitful .319/.374/.532 line with 8 HR, 38 RBI, and 32 R in 206 PA’s. It is only the third time the left-handed hitter has posted a SLG over the .500 clip (first in 2006 with a .505 SLG, and most recently in 2009 with a .540 SLG), and his .906 OPS is also his best rate–unless you count the 1.110 OPS he posted during a 15 PA stint in Rookie-Ball. Heck, in his first game for the Astros today, he’s already ripped a two-RBI double, and figures to get a chunk of at-bats in right-field for the limp Astros offense.
So, here’s the million dollar question: if Fernando Martinez is finally playing to his predicted abilities, why didn’t the Mets just hold onto the guy for one more season? As a reminder, the Mets could have cut D.J. Carrasco (who was recently released) at the time instead of giving F-Mart his walking papers. The answer isn’t simple, but frankly, it didn’t look like Martinez would ever mature into the hitter the Mets thought they signed back in 2005. Despite supposedly possessing the coveted and rare power/speed combination, the hitter never stole more than 8 bags in a season (in 2006), and never swatted more than 12 homeruns (in 2010). More so than just homeruns and stolen bases, the guy owned a solid but very unconvincing .274/.333/.442 career line in the Minors and horrendous .183/.250/.290 career line (in 145 PA’s) in the Majors. But perhaps most importantly, Fernando Martinez could never stay healthy. So after a point (say, six years), what’s the point?
It’s very possible Martinez will go on to have a very nice career in the Major Leagues–he is just 23 years-old after all–but it seemed as though it would never happen with the Mets. Since Martinez eclipsed the “five years of professional experience” mark, the Mets would have been forced to put him on the 25-man roster. At the time, there was no way Martinez was hypothetically ready for a full-time job, nor was he valuable off the bench. Essentially, Martinez and Mets were not a fit, so there’s no use in lamenting about “what could have been?”.