Eddy Martinez-Esteve gets Defensive

With his bat acting the part of a guitar, Defenders' outfielder Eddy Martinez-Esteve was rocking out to "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" during batting practice prior to last night's match up against the Trenton Thunder inside Waterfront Park. Through the first seven games this season, not only is the highly touted Giants prospect moving to the music of Will Smith, but also to the tune of a .364 average, good for tenth best in the Eastern League entering the game. It certainly comes as no surprise.

Prior to last season, however, he was forced to undergo shoulder surgery that limited him to a DH role until finally making it onto the field on June 18. Then he suffered a foot injury that forced him to miss the entire California League playoffs which subsequently required minor off-season surgery, but he now declares himself ready to go.

“Everything feels real good, I haven’t felt this healthy in over two years,” he said. Eddy would go on to drive in the winning run with a tenth inning double into the left-centerfield gap against the Thunder on Thursday evening, powering Connecticut to their fourth consecutive win with a 5-4 victory.

Drafted by San Francisco in the second round (70th overall) of the 2004 draft, Martinez-Esteve has done nothing but hit. Last year with Hi A San Jose the left-fielder hit .313 with 17 homers and 94 RBI in 479 at bats. He also led the organization with 44 doubles and 89 walks.

The twenty-three-year-old played his collegiate ball at Florida State University, where he was named to Baseball America’s First Team All-American and missed the Atlantic Coast Conference Triple Crown by just 2 RBI in his sophomore year. After playing third base for the Seminoles, he was soon shifted to the outfield in professional ball. Now, based upon his rash of injuries and questionable defensive play, many feel his best situation might be on an American League club as a designated hitter. Eddy, naturally, disagrees.

“I think my defense has improved tremendously. I’m not about to stand here and tell you I’m absolutely satisfied, I still have work to do in certain areas, but I think I’ve made some tremendous strides from last year to this year. Also my arm feels good, so that’s a real benefit.”

Connecticut hitting coach Gary Davenport, who was with him last year in San Jose, agrees that he’s made great progress but he’s still a long ways away from where he needs to be.

“He needs to play the field and become a complete ballplayer. He’s a good hitter, possibly the best in our organization, potentially, but he just needs to learn to play the rest of the game and put as much work into that as he does his hitting,” Davenport said. “Before he moves up he has to prove he can play defense. He can’t hurt us in the field and then make it up with the bat. They [the Giants front office] definitely have their eye on him.”

The Defenders’ are off to a fast 6-1 start this season and Martinez-Esteve is certainly a big part of the team’s success. Another contributing  factor might be the fact that the organization has made a conscious effort to keep he, fellow outfield prospects Nate Schierholtz and Clay Timpner, and first basemen Travis Ishikawa together coming up through the system. That core led San Jose to a 41-29 regular season record and the California League title a season ago.

“It’s a great group of guys and I think it’s good that the Giants organization is keeping this outfield together,” Martinez-Esteve said. “We all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses so it’s certainly a good thing.”

Eddy certainly is the star of that group, combining a mix of raw power with phenomenal strike-zone discipline and an excellent ability to hit for average.

With two of the Giants’ corner outfielders, Barry Bonds and Moises Alou, entering or already in their forties, respectively, he’ll get an opportunity on the Major League level within the next few years.

Offensively, Martinez-Esteve could be “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” inside AT&T Park rather soon. It’s his defense that will determine whether or not he remains there.

Christopher Guy covers Minor League Baseball for Scout.com. You can reach him at CGGuy86@Yahoo.com.

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