Jeremy Martinez (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

St. Louis’ fourth-rounder in 2016, catcher Jeremy Martinez, impressed at State College and could move ahead quickly.

The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown for 2017 continues at #29 with St. Louis’ fourth-rounder, a college-trained catcher ready to move ahead quickly. Details for TCN members.

http://www.scout.com/player/190432-jeremy-martinez?s=321

2016 rank Pos. DOB Signed Round
NA C 12 29 94 2016 4th

Selected 2016 stats

Tm AVG BABIP AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO SB wOBA OBP SLG OPS
SC 0.325 0.341 194 28 63 14 1 32 32 16 1 0.406 0.419 0.433 0.852

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (27): Jeremy Martinez finished higher in the community voting at #27 than he did here. 14NyquisT began voting for the catcher first at #23, sharing that he sat very close to the State College dugout in Game 1 of the New York-Penn League championship series and could see that Martinez was the team leader.

BobReed echoed his thoughts on Martinez, believing that his 157 wRC+, twice as many walks as whiffs, and the 46% caught stealing rate gives the Cardinals’ minor league system abundant depth. SoonerinNC said that a pre-draft scouting report said that Martinez had good enough defense to allow him to play catcher in the major leagues. Brianpnoonan eliminated Martinez as a candidate for his top 25 due to the backstop having drafted lower than the likes of Jake Woodford and Dylan Carlson. – Jeremy Byrd

 

Derek Shore (32): In the 2016 draft with their fourth-round pick, #136 overall, the Cardinals scouting director Randy Flores and USC grad went to familiar roots, grabbing Trojans three-year stalwart Martinez.

Martinez, 21, served mostly as a designated hitter in his first two seasons in college, backing up All-American Garrett Stubbs. In his junior year, the right-handed hitter got the regular nod behind the plate for the Trojans and flourished to the tune of a .376/.460/.563 slash line while powering up for six homers and 42 RBI.

Perhaps most impressively, the Fountain Valley, CA native drew 19 walks and only struck out a dozen times over 213 at-bats. Martinez was actually considered to be too passive of a hitter in his first two collegiate seasons before changing up his approach as a junior. He began to attack pitches more aggressively, leading to harder contact, showing strength in his bat to the pull-side while flashing an improved feel for using the whole field.

Martinez was St. Louis' first college hitter selected by Flores in the draft. From one "SC" to another, the catcher rounded out his draft year, hitting for the highest batting average among starters (.325) with 63 hits, including 14 doubles, 32 RBI, and 26 runs scored for the short-season Class-A State College Spikes.

The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder, also posted a remarkable 32-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio, leading the New York Penn-League in on-base percentage as well.

According to an NYPL source, Martinez "had a loud year statistically, but doesn't have a high-ceiling." While he is a below-average athlete and his arm strength projects at fringy (will work to improve his throwing mechanics) to be a strong defender behind the dish, he still has a shot to stick with plus makeup. He also impressed the Cardinals player development staff with his game calling and confidence, but he is not going to be a flashy type.

At the plate, Martinez is more of a high-contact hitter than power threat. He does possess some pull power from the right side and has shown the ability to pepper the ball to all fields. However, his biggest strength is his exceptional plate discipline and he has the makings of a solid offensive player.

Ultimately, Martinez is a grinder behind and at the plate. He has the offensive upside, but his athleticism and defensive ability limits him to a backup catcher profile.

Martinez will begin his first full season with Low-A Peoria in 2017, looking for sustained offensive success and improved defensive ability.

  

Brian Walton (34): This may seem a bit odd, as I was the least aggressive among our three voters on Martinez, but I am not yet ready to relegate his ceiling to being a future back up. He is not big in size, but is sturdy and durable. As already noted, Martinez gains points for his leadership, which likely contributed to his recognition as a New York-Penn League all-star.

I have seen Martinez catch multiple games now from right behind the screen and while I am not a scout, I did not see any indications of subpar defense, either in handling pitches or throwing. In terms of numbers, he threw out a very credible 46 percent of NYPL baserunners attempting to steal (17 of 37).

Interestingly, when I asked Cardinals minor league hitting coordinator George Greer about Martinez, the coach gushed about defense.

“Jeremy did a nice job of calling his own game,” Greer said. “It looks to me like he called his own game in college, too. So he was able to work hitters. He was not afraid to work inside. He used the secondary pitchers to our pitchers’ advantage and he did a really nice job of controlling the game.”

Though queried at a different time. Martinez’ manager at State College, Johnny Rodriguez had a similar response to my question.

“Jeremy Martinez is a very smart catcher,” the manager said. “He knows how to set up hitters. He works well with the pitching staff.”

Even so, what will carry him ahead most quickly is his bat, which certainly could produce more power, but is still very potent. Martinez’ discipline and batting eye, which consistently allow him to draw more walks than strikeouts (doubled at State College), is a very valuable and proven strength.

Other than Carson Kelly, who is on the cusp of MLB, the Cardinals do not have any other true catching prospects in our top 44 prospects. None in the top 50 other than Kelly are in full-season ball. That signals to me that Martinez can move ahead as fast as he shows he is able.

To that end, I would not be entirely surprised if he jumps over Peoria and opens 2017 in Palm Beach. It all depends on how others stack up. As we discussed during this countdown at #44, another 2016-drafted college catcher, Johnson City’s Andrew Knizner, could become Peoria’s regular backstop this coming season.

TCN Scouting Grade: 5, Risk: High (click here to review scales)

 

Our 2017 top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. Thank you for being a member!

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