TCN 2014 Cards Prospect #2: Carlos Martinez

The rookie right-hander has all the pitches, but what role will he play for St. Louis in 2014?

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2013 and career stats)

2013 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
5 RHS 9/21/1991 6-0 166 R R 2010 FA

Hometown: Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Selected 2013 stats

Mem 5 3 2.51 3.84 13 13 0 68 54 22 3 27 63 1.73 0.213 0.278
Spr 1 0 2.31 3.29 3 3 0 11.2 11 3 1 1 9 1.89 0.239 0.268
Total 6 3 2.49   16 16 0 79.2 65 25 4 28 72 1.75 0.217  
StL 2 1 5.08 3.38 21 1 1 28.1 31 16 1 9 24 1.59 0.282 0.345

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (2): The St. Louis Cardinals' "Baby Pedro" Martinez, ranked fourth by the community last year, moves up two spots this year to the second spot on the message board community prospect list.

2013 began pretty strangely as Martinez had trouble getting his visa, which held him completely out of spring training. That required him to have to report back to Springfield, the level at which he finished the previous season. There, he was able build up his stamina and innings, and was summoned to the big-league club, which was in dire need of relief help at the time.

After a couple of major-league outings, Martinez was sent down to Memphis to stretch back out as a starter. He joined a Memphis six-man rotation that included another top pitching prospect in Michael Wacha. From there, Martinez dominated Triple-A competition. He treated the level like he had been there for years but instead it was only 13 starts (68.0 IP) with 27 walks, 63 strikeouts, and a .217 opponents batting average against. The Cardinals continued shifting around his regimen from starter to reliever as they called him up four times and sent him down three.

In his time with the Cardinals during the regular season, Martinez was fairly inconsistent when used for one inning or more in relief. A lot of that may have had to do with the regimen shifting. One inning he would look unhittable, with pinpoint location of all his pitches and sharpness, then the next inning his location would go south and his pitches were easily squared up - especially his fastball. Consistency at the highest level of baseball is what Martinez needed to set his sights on.

Down the stretch as Edward Mujica fatigued and was replaced by Trevor Rosenthal as the closer, Martinez stepped up in a big way. He thrived during the last couple of weeks in September and in the postseason. There, he appeared in 12 games, holding an ERA of 3.55 with 11 strikeouts, a .167 opp avg, and 0.79 WHIP on the national stage in October.

Martinez displayed why the Cardinals gave him $1.5 million dollars in signing money and why he was such a sought-after prospect - not only by the Cardinals, but by all the ML teams that were reportedly attempting to acquire him via trade.

Martinez sits in the 93-99 mph range with his four-seamer that just explodes at hitters with life you can't imagine behind it. But the pitch can be centered when it is left over the heart of the plate. It becomes frequently straight but the velocity makes it tougher to catch up to.

Even his two-seamer has excellent velocity, sitting in the 92-95 mph range with tailing action that runs in on righties. This is the pitch Martinez uses when a groundball is needed, and backs it up with a plus breaking ball that moves like a slider from his arm slot and an inconsistent change-up that could be a plus pitch if he can disguise it better.

That all said, Martinez' stuff is electric and he can throw strikes with all of his offerings. But to get the most out of his stuff and start at the major-league level, he must command it and learn to get ahead of hitters. He is only 22, so there is plenty of time to improve.

If the Cardinals give him a legitimate chance at starting, there is no telling of how good Martinez can become. But it is all about the getting the opportunity. He will have to win out against a number of potential starters so don't be surprised to see him setting-up games behind Rosenthal in 2014. - DTFlush234

Brian Walton (2): This is Martinez' fourth and almost certainly last appearance in this top 40. Interestingly, he has alternated between being our fifth and second-ranked prospect each year since joining the list in 2011.

The only real suspense remaining about Martinez is whether his future is as a starter or reliever. I am not one who carries those doubts, however.

I feel a bit like a broken record, having made similar remarks about Martinez one year ago. Perhaps I have a distorted view of the pecking order, but all the talk about Martinez remaining a reliever for any more than an interim period because he is blocked by others just doesn't hold water with me.

If Martinez digresses or is injured, indicating he could not handle the workload of a major league starter, that would be another situation entirely. At this point, however, that is not the case. In fact, I have seen nothing that leads me to believe Martinez will not be able to seize at least a middle-of-the-rotation spot behind Adam Wainwright and alongside Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller (and maybe Trevor Rosenthal by 2015). His pitches are that good.

While Martinez is currently pitching as a starter in winter ball and slated to come into spring camp as a starter, continuing in that role out of the gate in 2014 seems unlikely. The sheer numbers of rotation competitors currently in place would signal a return to the bullpen initially, as Rosenthal first experienced in 2013. As there are no better relief candidates, however, I cannot see the Cardinals sending Martinez back to Memphis to start.

Once the opportunity fully develops and he continues to improve as a major league pitcher, Martinez' abilities are such that he should move past rotation competitors, even ones already proven at the level. For those others, it could mean a move to the bullpen or a trade to another team. In other words, a player of Martinez' talent level should not be blocked from his ultimate job for too long. My guess is it will be another year at most.

Our 2014 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

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