Beginning your professional career in a snowstorm is not an easy thing. For Eddy Julio Martinez, playing in snow was probably not what he imagined when he inked a deal with the Cubs last October. The Cubs signed Martinez as part of their 2015–16 international free agent class, but the deal came a few months after most other IFA’s had been inked. In a strange twist, the Giants announced they had signed him for $2.5 million a week before the Cubs did. It some time to sort out, but the Cubs’ contract with Martinez was deemed the valid one.
Adding to the strangeness of the whole mess was that the Cubs signed EJM for only $3 million, though it had been rumored that he was going to be a $10 million man. Coming at such a value, many began to speculate that he was not the player he was purported to be. Had something changed evaluation-wise? It would be a long wait from October to February to actually see Martinez in action.
From January to February, most of the major baseball evaluators rank the prospects in each minor-league system. The reports on Martinez and how he stacked up against other players in the Cubs organization were varied. Baseball America lauded Martinez’s speed, arm, and power and had him ranked him #28. They also believed that Martinez could add some more mass onto a 6-1, 195-pound frame.
FanGraphs had him at #17, stating:
Other opinions have him a bit higher on his running ability, and you can also hear scouts say he projects for home run power to all fields. This year will help parse things out, and we can see a bit more of where he really is tool-wise.
Keith Law had him at #7 and believed Martinez was top-of-the-line talent. In fact, Law thought Martinez could have been the first pick in the 2015 draft had he been eligible.
MLB Pipeline settled on Martinez at #15 based on the following rationale:
Though there are some mixed reports on Martinez, he has the potential to have four solid tools and some gap power. He has a line-drive, contact-oriented approach from the right side of the plate. Though he didn’t display much pop in Cuba, he does have bat speed and has added strength since leaving the island.
Martinez was one of the most sought-after prospects to watch in Mesa during spring training. The first thing I saw in pictures was just what a great physical specimen he was. He was not as stocky as I thought he would be, he was actually a little bit leaner, which means he could add some more weight to his frame.
Initially, it was thought that Martinez would spend all of 2016 in the Arizona Rookie League to get used to American customs and society. I was a little surprised when rosters came out to find that he had been assigned to South Bend.
It took about a month of ups and downs, but in the past two weeks Martinez is really starting to adapt to playing in the Midwest League and making adjustments to his approach at the plate. In several of the games I watched in April, he was coming unglued on every pitch because he was trying to destroy the baseball. Now, he looks much more relaxed, much more certain of what he is looking for in a pitch.
He started off very strong in the first four games, hitting .375 with one home run and two RBI’s. His average plummeted down to .200 before he took his very first walk on April 26. It was that walk that first showed a different approach at the plate. Martinez began to look more patient, to show that he was looking for a pitch to hit. And, most importantly, he was not chasing after everything with red stitches on it.
Over the last six games, Martinez is hitting .318 with one home run and six RBI’s. He’s also taken two walks in the first five games of May after collecting three free passes during the last week of April. While EJM does have the propensity to swing and miss (his K-rate is close to 25%), he has not struck out in his last three games. What I truly think we are seeing here in the last two weeks is Martinez beginning to adapt to a more professional style of hitting.
Heading into the upcoming road trip, Martinez leads the team with 3 home runs and his 17 RBI’s have him tied with Donnie Dewees. The bat is what gets the most attention, but Martinez has also shown his speed some in the outfield. Then again, he has been in right most of the time and only has two stolen bases.
Martinez struggled in his first two trips away from South Bend, and the Cubs are about to hit the road for the next two weeks. In 16 games at home he is hitting .281 with three home runs and 14 RBI’s, but in 10 away games he’s hit .184 with no homers and three RBI’s. Granted, it’s only 30 at bats, but it also correlates the start of his mid-April slump. The average has climbed to .245 in the last six games, however, and may be set to take off. Seeing that happen on the road would be great.
I think Martinez is already showing signs of becoming a more disciplined hitter and that will come through the next two weeks. With 14 games in 15 days, he will have plenty of time to be more patient at the plate in parks not named Four Winds Field.
In June, prospect rankings will be redone before and after the draft. It would not surprise me to see Martinez’s name shoot up most lists if he continues to do what he has done the last two weeks.