The Cubs currently have four minor-league affiliates in season, with their Low-A Eugene squad set to begin in June. I might spend most of my time on MILB.TV checking out South Bend and Tennessee this summer, but what I am really looking forward to is seeing some of those prospects in Eugene, the Cubs’ short season affiliate. Right now, most of those players are honing their skills in Mesa, Arizona at extended spring training. Every day I check reports on players like Aramis Ademan, Miguel Amaya, Jose Albertos, the injured Eloy Jimenez, and Tyler Peyton. But the player I am most intrigued by just committed to playing baseball full time. His name is Joe Martarano, and it is a name I think you’re going to remember.
Martarano was originally drafted in the 13th round of the 2013 MLB draft by the Phillies. Back then, he was a third baseman with an intense hitting profile. Spencer Morris said of the then 18-year-old:
His wide shoulders and explosive hips generate plus raw power, and he has relaxed the arm action in his swing since last year, helping with his plate coverage and preserving his plus bat speed. […] Though he needs adjustments at the plate with his mechanics and timing, his combination of raw power, leverage and impressive bat speed could make him an impact hitter in the future.
Martarano turned down the Phillies’ offer that summer. Instead, he went to Boise State to play football. Hailing from Fruitland, Idaho, Joe stayed close to home to attend Boise State. If it was up to Martarano, he would have played both football and baseball in college. However, Boise State did not have a baseball program.
The next year, the Cubs used a loophole in the draft to select Martarano in the 22nd around because he was not playing baseball at Boise State. At the time, the Cubs had their short season affiliate in the Northwest League stationed in Boise, Idaho. Martarano signed with the Cubs and played in just four games of rookie ball in Mesa. The next summer in 2015, he hit .315 and drove in 12 in 14 games in Mesa. He had 4 doubles, a triple, but no HRs. Then football season called and Martarano went back to Boise.
He did not play at all for the Cubs last year, but a broken leg ended his football season prematurely. His future was a little cloudy.
When 2017 arrived, he chose to leave football and pursue baseball full-time.
— Jay Tust (@KTVBSportsGuy) March 9, 2017
As a result, all spring, I have been checking in on Martarano’s daily performance. While his stats have been impressive, they need to be taken with a grain of salt since it is extended spring training. Most days, Joe gets about three to four at bats and usually has one or two hits and a walk. Sometimes it’s a double, sometimes it’s a home run, but regardless of what type of hit it is, he is coming across as a very polished hitter with a good eye at the plate.
But sometimes box scores can be misleading. So, I contacted John Arguello of Cubs Den because he lives in Mesa and has seen Joe hit quite a bit this spring. John shared:
“What I like most about Martarano is his tremendous raw power. (He) Generates that power with leverage, great strength, and very good bat speed. My guess is they’re hoping to get him to Eugene. I don’t think he is ready for the MWL right now, still could use some polish on both sides of the ball.”
It is interesting to read the analysis of two people four years apart that doesn’t show much difference in their opinions of his hitting potential.
Martarano will be exciting to watch but it would be keen to keep an even keel as he does have to shake off the rust of not two playing for two years. He has been playing a lot in left field this spring and it has been awkward at times according to reports. Right now, though, I think it is about getting at-bats to get in a groove for Eugene.
But all things considered, the Cubs may have lucked into something with Martarano.
Lead Photo courtesy John Arguello