Name: Jose Martinez
Signed: Non-drafted free agent on Dec. 14, 2004 (STL)
H/W: 5'11''/ 175
Jose Martinez signed with the St. Louis Cardinals as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela just weeks before his 19th birthday. Only a few months later, he was making his professional debut in the Appalachian (Rookie) League and establishing himself as a legitimate prospect. Martinez appeared in 55 games for the Johnson City Cardinals in 2005 and he hit .300/.387/.500 with six homeruns and a 20:15 BB:K. Martinez would continue to impress for the next two seasons before his career was sidetracked by personal tragedy and injuries.
Martinez spent the 2006 season playing in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League. He posted a .270/.320/.417 line with eight homeruns, a solid line in a league that is notoriously tough on young hitters. Martinez suffered a badly bruised left foot in August of that season and he lost nearly three weeks with the injury. That injury was a portent of things to come for Martinez later in his career.
In 2007, Martinez was challenged with yet another difficult assignment, starting his season in the Florida State League. Martinez spent half a season with the Palm Beach Cardinals. In 62 games, he hit only .248/.285/.323, but the Cardinals saw enough from Martinez that they trusted him with a mid-season promotion to Double-A Springfield. He handled the jump with relative ease, hitting .300/.339/.472 with 10 homeruns in 66 games. At the end of that season, Martinez was ranked as the Cardinals' seventh-best prospect by our Scout.com sister site, TheCardinalNation.com.
The 2008 campaign was a difficult one for Martinez. He began the year back with Springfield and he wasn't able to recapture the form that he displayed in the Texas League in 2007. Martinez hit only .253/.292/.348 in 127 games before another foot injury in August shelved him for the rest of the season. It was later revealed that Martinez was playing through pain in that left foot for much of the year.
Martinez endured a year of personal and professional hardship in 2009. That spring, Martinez developed right shoulder tendinitis that kept him from competing for a spot on an Opening Day affiliate roster. While in Florida, he then learned that his father, grandmother and two uncles were killed by a pair of gunmen in his native Venezuela. Martinez left camp to be with his family. When he returned to the US, his right shoulder pain continued to hamper him. He eventually had surgery on the shoulder and missed the entire 2009 regular season.
As is often the case with shoulder rehabilitations, Martinez found his path back to the field fraught with delays. He appeared in only six games in 2010, all with the Gulf Coast (Rookie) League Cardinals. Martinez was released by the Cardinals during spring training in 2011 and wasn't in affiliated baseball the rest of that season.
Martinez was very well respected within the Cardinals' organization and he received another opportunity to play professionally from former Cardinals' farm director Jeff Luhnow, who is now the General Manager of the Houston Astros. Martinez would spend the next two seasons playing for the Astros' Double-A and Triple-A affiliates.
In 2012, Martinez spent most of the year in Double-A with Corpus Christi in the Texas League. He put together a big comeback season, earning Texas League post-season All-Star honors by hitting .304/.362/.464 with 13 homers, 75 RBI and a 36:40 BB:K. He would finish the year with Triple-A Oklahoma City, and Martinez hit .205 in 23 games with the RedHawks.
Martinez began the 2013 season in Oklahoma City, but he remained with the RedHawks for just three games before being sent back to Double-A Corpus Christi. Martinez's time in the Texas League was brief, however. In eight games, he collected 15 hits in 33 at-bats and he was quickly brought back up to Triple-A. For the rest of the season, Martinez suited up for Oklahoma City, playing for former A's minor league manager and major league base coach Tony DeFrancesco. Martinez was a valuable player for Tony D and the RedHawks, hitting .282/.316/.410 with six homers and a 16:24 BB:K in 305 at-bats.
This off-season, Martinez signed a minor league free agent deal with the A's and he will be a non-roster player at major league camp.
Over the past year, the A's have targeted several hitters that are particularly skilled at making contact. Throughout his career, Martinez has been an above-average contact hitter. In 2,521 at-bats, he has struck-out just 210 times. He has also shown a decent amount of power for a middle infielder, homering 55 times and posting a career .408 SLG.
Defensively, Martinez has always had good hands and solid range at both short and second base. His arm was only average before his shoulder surgery, however, and after the surgery, he is now likely limited to second base. He has only average speed and base-stealing hasn't been a big part of his game.
Martinez has a similar build and a similar offensive skill-set as fellow countryman and former A's infielder Marco Scutaro, although he doesn't have Scutaro's defensive versatility. Like Scutaro, Martinez rarely swings and misses and he has excellent bat control. Also like Scutaro (at least Scutaro at the major league level), Martinez doesn't walk much. Scutaro made his Oakland debut at age 28 and Martinez will be 28 throughout this season.
The A's have some depth at second base at the major league and Triple-A levels with Eric Sogard, Nick Punto, Alberto Callaspo and Andy Parrino on the 40-man roster and Hiroyuki Nakajima, Dusty Coleman, Tyler Ladendorf, Alden Carrithers and Darwin Perez all candidates to play second base for Sacramento this season. Even with that competition, Martinez's track record will give him a strong chance to earn a spot on the Triple-A roster if he has a strong spring.