Is It Time For Fernando Martinez To Make A Splash?

An article by posted on March 29, 2011

As a Mets fan, the name Fernando Martinez has always perked my ears when I would hear or read his name.

It seems like F-Mart has been around for a long time, though he’s just 22 years old. (His birthday is only two months after mine, and he turns 23 on Oct. 10 this year.)

But there has been so much speculation, question and doubt among Mets fans, specifically for the past three seasons. To F-Mart’s credit, he’s been somewhat on a roller coaster since 2008, being called up. Being sent back down. Called up. Sent down.

Now, I have to wonder if it could finally be Martinez’s time to live up to the potential most of us Mets fans know he has.

The stats don’t lie, though they are difficult to interpret because he’s been so injury-prone the past few seasons.

This spring, he went 8-for-22 with a homer and four RBIs. In his MLB career, he’s appeared in 36 games, with one homer and 10 RBIs, while batting .174. It’s not mind-blowing, but his minor league stats do jump out.

According to BaseballReference.com, his prospect ranking has dropped considerably since 2007. (He was No. 22 in 2007 and was No. 77 prior to last season.)

In two seasons with Triple-A Buffalo, Martinez has played in 116 games, hitting 20 home runs and racked up 61 RBIs.

Sure, the Mets have some enticing outfield prospects — namely Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and even Matt den Dekker. But if the 22-year-old Martinez can find a way to stay healthy, he could be the real deal in a few years — or sooner.

In a March 1 story in the New York Post when Martinez was informed he’d be sent down to minor league camp, he still seemed optimistic.

“I’ve been here a long time, but now I feel comfortable and I know what I’m doing,” Martinez was quoted as saying the day he was sent down. Still, he said he’s finally healthy, adding: “… things are coming together for me.”

My thoughts …

Growing up playing a ton of sports, I know there definitely are such things as “growing pains.” Most youngsters who play a lot of sports get them and know it’s true. Especially with baseball. Yes, most sports are played year-round just like baseball, but baseball is played nearly every day.

I am sure F-Mart has had some silly, nagging, growing-pain injuries throughout his career. But I think that if the kid can stay healthy, he can be a factor for the Mets in the future.

It’s also worth remembering who the Mets have in the outfield right now. It’s as good as anyone’s guess as to how long or often Carlos Beltran will be able to play. Lucas Duda has had a good spring, but F-Mart is probably still in the mind of Terry Collins.

David Wright made his debut July 21, 2004, when he was 21 years old. He’s now 28 and the face of the franchise. Am I saying F-Mart will be the next face of the New York Mets? Not necessarily. But I am saying he’s still young, and he can still have a very bright future if he can stay healthy and get on the right program. I also think a lot of future success for Martinez is contingent upon him believing in himself despite the life of one day playing in Triple-A and the next day getting a phone call to be in the big-league lineup. But that’s the life of a baseball player.

And remember, though you might want to criticize F-Mart for not staying healthy and possibly being a bust, keep this in mind: He’d probably be finishing college if he wasn’t playing baseball. Instead, he has the weight of New York City and Mets Nation on his back to stay healthy and produce … at 22 years old.

Follow Andrew O’Brien on Twitter @aobrien7.

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