F-Mart: Is It Too Soon To Judge?

In July 2005 the New York Mets signed 16 year old Fernando Martinez.  F-Mart was given a signing bonus of $1.4 million and from that point on was labeled as the future of the New York Mets.  Omar Minaya said of F-Mart when he signed that:

“What we saw in [Martinez] was a 16-year-old kid with power, great ability and great character, above everything else.”

F-Mart was considered to be a “five tool player” meaning that he could hit for average, power, excellent at running the bases, excellent speed, excellent fielding and an amazing throwing arm.  For the last 4 years other clubs in the majors have wanted the young outfielder in trades but the Mets put F-Mart on untouchable status.  There was no player nor any situation that would warrant a trade for the young outfielder.

At the age of 19 he was assigned to the Mets Double A team.  There were some concerns however.  Martinez has proven to be injury prone.  In 2007 he missed part of the minor league season with an injured wrist which resulted in having surgery to remove his hamate bone.  2008 Fernando suffered another injury, this time he injured his hamstring twice that year.  Early this year playing winter ball F-Mart injured his elbow, though no surgery was required, just some rest.  Now in 2009 he is on the disabled list with a bad knee.

F-Mart started the year in AAA, playing for the Bisons.  Before being called on May 26 he was batting .291 with 8 home-runs, and at the time he was leading the international league with 25 extra base hits in just 42 games.  He knew that the eyes of the baseball world were on him when the Mets, having no choice due to the injuries that they have suffered over the first half of the season, called him up.

2009 so far has not been a great year for F-Mart as of yet.  He has played so far 29 games.  He has had 91 at bats and is currently hitting .176 with 14 strike outs, an on-base percentage of .242.

I think it would be fair to say that F-Mart has been unimpressive in his early career with the Mets. He has looked over-matched at the plate for most of his appearances.  Recently, he struck out in twice in the same game by swinging at strike 3 that was thrown at his eyes.  I think his work in the field still needs work as he does not always get a good read on the ball though he does recover quickly to make the out.  Plus, I don’t know if the maturity is there yet either, to be a big leaguer.  I hate to keep bringing it up, but let’s not forget the pop up that he did not run out that the opposing catcher dropped.  Had F-Mart been running to first he would have been on base.

Personally I do think it’s too early to judge him.  I’ve been saying for a couple of years now that the Mets have for some reason rushed him through the system.  It seems that they wanted to justify as soon as possible that he was worthy of turning down trades for some big names that have been offered to the Mets.  This season with all the injuries the team has suffered and the lack of depth in AAA, all eyes were on him more than they would have been for him to perform well.  He has lost time developing due to the injuries he has suffered over his short career so far, which is something to also keep in mind.  If you remember, this year the Mets originally did not plan to bring him up this early.  They were talking after the All-Star game at the earliest, not the end of May.

The Mets have a habit of rushing their top prospects through the system, I think that is what’s happening to F-Mart.  He should have been down at AAA playing for the Bisons this season.  I know seeing him strikeout is frustrating considering how long he has been touted as the future of this team, but we have to remember that he’s just 20 years old, has not had a lot of minor league experience, and is still developing.  I know some are calling him a bust, but it’s too early to make that judgment right right now.  I do think F-Mart can be a good player at the major league level, but it will take time and patience.