The Chicago Cubs are reaping the benefits of a stacked farm system. The fact that they have continued to graduate players to the big league club, or trade others, and still maintain a high ranking in just about all prospect ranking systems speaks volumes. Names like Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber, Dylan Cease, Jorge Soler, Arismendy Alcantara, Duane Underwood, and many more have become well known to most Cubs fans because of how highly touted the Cubs farm system has been for the past six or so years.
There are other prospects, though; ones who are noteworthy in their own regard but who slip through the cracks simply because of the volume of top-level prospects throughout the organization. Some have come and gone already, others never managed to pan out, and, of course, there are those that are still plugging away within the system. In 2017, it’s easy to focus on the big league club; they’re finally winners and that makes them all the easier to engage with. The minors still have hidden gems, or at the very least players worth keeping track of as they progress through the system.
One such player is Cuban National Series alum Eddy Martinez. For two years, as a teenager, he played for Lenadores de Las Tunas of the CNS. He didn’t put up stellar numbers for Las Tunas, but as an 18-19 year old his numbers weren’t really what mattered. What MLB teams were paying attention to were the raw tools he displayed. Tools that, for example, drew comparisons to longtime MLBer Andruw Jones. The belief was, and still is, that as Martinez’s frame fills out he’ll develop more power and eventually be a consistent doubles and home runs guy.
It’s important to note that not all scouts agreed on Martinez. Baseball America, for instance, wasn’t that high on Martinez. They labeled him a solid prospect, but not a premium one. The main concern for Baseball America, and other scouts, was the lack of true power found in Martinez’s swing. In the CNS he was more of a gap to gap hitter, and the belief that he would develop more power as he filled out wasn’t shared by a number of scouts. There’s nothing wrong with a solid prospect, but on a team as loaded as the Cubs, one wonders just how much shelf life there is in an outfielder without above-average power.
A number of teams were willing to side with the positive scouting reports, and it was the Cubs who took a flier on Martinez, signing him to a $6 million deal in 2015. Martinez saw his first action in the Cubs system in 2016 for the Midwest League South Bend Cubs. Through 517 plate appearances, he managed to post a slash line of .254/.331/.380. The numbers weren’t stellar, but again, the numbers didn’t matter as much as his development. In that regard, getting Martinez a full year with an A-ball club to see where he was development-wise is about what the Cubs wanted from him in 2016.
There were some positives in Martinez’s numbers. A TAv of .268 shows that there is some reason to believe in his ability to progress as a hitter. The statistic that sticks out most is his BABIP of .315. There is some luck involved in BABIP, but for a guy whose power hasn’t come in yet, having a BABIP that high equates with an ability to hit the ball hard and avoid fielders. If Martinez’s power never truly develops it may be his ability to find holes with his bat that he has to rely on more than anything else.
What is concerning is that in his 21-year-old season Martinez only managed to post an ISO of .126. That’s below average, and a bit concerning since the big sell on Martinez is that he will grow into significant power. The power may still be present, just waiting to be unleashed, but as of yet Martinez has yet to show the raw power many saw in his profile. This is one statistic that will be important to track as Martinez progresses through the system, because as an outfielder he’ll need a decidedly higher ISO to provide the value the Cubs need.
A small amount of buzz had followed Martinez when he signed, but as he became just another prospect at South Bend, the buzz quickly faded. For Martinez, this has been a blessing, because so far 2017 hasn’t been all that kind. A move to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, the Cubs High-A team, hasn’t returned many dividends to this point. He’s showed some regression at the plate, but it’s still very early in the season. That’s the mantra to be used with Martinez at this stage: it’s still early. Luckily for him, he’s not a prospect that most Cubs fans have made the effort to focus on. This is allowing him to, hopefully, work through his struggles.
Eddy Martinez is a prospect who is a long way from the big leagues, and based on his power, I have doubts that he’ll ever make it to the big league club. As previously stated, though, it is early, so the jury is still out on the Cuban youngster. The Cubs, luckily, have enough talent that they are able to be patient with a prospect like Martinez. It’s a feeling the Cubs are able to enjoy, and their hope is that the patience they are showing Martinez will pay off in a few years. Perhaps it will, but even if it doesn’t, it’s an even better feeling to know that the organization is no longer dependent on a handful of prospects living up to their potential.