Giants Top 50: #7 - Eddy Martinez-Esteve

There isn't much doubt about this prospect's bat. But he has been dogged by talk about his lack of defense perhaps even more than he has been dogged by injuries. The questions of both are more serious than ever after he missed most of 2006 with his second shoulder surgery in two years. Can he keep up and deliver on his promise? #7 is Eddy Martinez-Esteve!

Date of Birth: 07/14/1983 Position: OF Height: 6'2" Weight: 215 Bats: R Throws: R
Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd Round (#70 Overall) of the 2004 Draft
2006 Stats
Connecticut - Double-A .272 .324 .446 .770 92 8 25 10 0 2 11 9 14 0 0

Last year about this time, we said that the real question about Eddy Martinez-Esteve weren't his oft-evoked defensive problems, but instead they were his injuries.

It was the injuries that cut short his 2006 season.

EME, as he is commonly known, had labrum surgery on his right shoulder (his throwing shoulder) before the 2005 season, which limited his play to DH until June of that season.  This year, he injured his left shoulder (non-throwing) while batting in a game in early May.  He attempted to rehab the shoulder, but eventually, he had labrum surgery on that one as well and missed the year.

The good news is that before the injury, he was doing well in the Eastern League.  He only had a .272 batting average, but had respectable on-base and slugging percentages and had been adjusting to playing in Connecticut.  The better news is that his much-maligned attitude towards playing had changed, and he was working hard to improve on defense, his biggest weakness.  Early on in the 2006 season, Connecticut hitting coach Gary 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."

EME himself felt he was improving.  "I think my defense has improved tremendously," he said in April.  "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."

He followed through on his commitment even while missing the majority of the year.  Reports indicated he reported to the 2006 fall instructional league 20 pounds lighter, and ready to go.

The Giants seem to feel better, too.  EME got his first invite to big league spring training.  While he is a longshot at best to make the big league team out of spring training, the opportunity will be a big step for EME to prove he's more than a DH in a DH-less league.

The good feelings aside, however, there is still plenty of concerns for one of the Giants' system's best hitters, and for once, his hitting is one of those concerns.

Labrum surgery on one shoulder is one thing, but having it on both can be indicative of serious long-term problems.  The fact he apparently injured his non-throwing shoulder on a swing says that even doing what he's good at can hurt him, and worse, implies that the injury may affect his best tools.  His power was still developing in Double-A, as he'd been leading the league in doubles at the time of his injury.  A big part of his ability to turn the corner and move up was a hopeful ability to turn those doubles into home runs, and the newest shoulder injury puts some doubt in front of those projections.  For the first time, EME will have to prove he can hit to keep advancing.

His past with other injuries, including hamstring and foot injuries, also remain a huge concern.

Although the team (and EME himself) committed themselves to helping him improve in the outfield, a move to first base seems as possible as ever.  While the legs can still be used heavily in the infield as they are in the outfield, EME's shoulders would not have to put up with as much at first.  There's also an interesting implication for his defensive issues.  While the move to first would require a lot of work, it might lessen one of his biggest problems with improving his defense: Focus.  Before the 2006 season began, EME indicated that Connecticut manager Dave Machemer wanted him to improve his focus on every pitch on every play.  In the outfield, it's easy to become disconnected, but he had done better in college because he was an infielder there.

EME's immediate future is hard to predict.  His bat was ready for Triple-A last year, and if it still is, he'll prove it in Spring Training.  But the team has a number of outfielders in the depth chart, and Fresno's outfield could already be crowed with Fred Lewis and Dan Ortmeier likely to take up two spots, and teammate Nate Schierholtz with an inside track on the third spot.  But the more distant future is easier to project; unless his bat has taken a major hit with the latest injury, it's simply too good to be ignored.  He'll be a contender to be in the majors by 2008, health permitting.

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