Scouting Padres Prospect Luis Martinez

Thought to be defense-first, San Diego Padres catching prospect Luis Martinez proved he could also wield the stick. It has put him on the prospect map.

Vital Statistics;
Name: Luis Martinez
Position: C
DOB: April 3, 1985
Height: 6-foot
Weight: 210
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

A 12th-round pick by the Padres in 2007, Martinez began his professional career in short-season with the Eugene Emeralds. In 21 games, the Cumberland University alumnus hit .278 with eight extra-base hits. He was moved up to Fort Wayne to end the 2007 season, playing in 24 games for the Wizards. He hit .231 with four extra-base hits across 78 at-bats.

The 2008 season saw him return to Fort Wayne – where he stayed the entire season. In 94 games, Martinez hit .223 with a .338 on-base percentage. He had 12 doubles, a triple and three homers while notching just 19 RBI. He hit just .129 in 93 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Moved to the California League in 2009, Martinez hit an even .300 across 83 games. He swatted 20 doubles and four homers while netting 41 RBI. He also touted a .389 on-base percentage with a 34-to-58 walk-to-strikeout ratio. He was much better with runners in scoring position, hitting .341 as he alleviated the pressure to perform and took it as a normal hitting situation. Most of his RBI came hitting eighth and ninth in the order. He notched a .367 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) – ranked 20th in the league and second on his team.

The Florida native also saw 11 games with Portland where he hit .171 in 35 at-bats.

Martinez is a solid all-around catcher that doesn't get too up or down based on situations. His mild mannered temperament serves him well in handling the pitching staff.

"He was outstanding," Lake Elsinore manager Carlos Lezcano said. "He led the organization in percentage of throwing people out in second base, runners. He's durable. He's like a little bull right there. He blocks well, he throws well in the 1.8s (seconds). I got him timed at 1.85, 1.87, 1.89s to second base, which is very good."

He isn't necessarily a vocal catcher but has also improved in this area – giving pitchers the necessary encouragement or rebuke as needed.

His calling of games has improved but needs a little tweaking. He could stand to call the changeup a tad more in off-counts in an effort to become less predictable.

With soft hands and good footwork, Martinez explodes out of his stance to cut down on the running game. He has an plus arm when combining trajectory, strength and accuracy. He worked hard on improving his accuracy. Because the rest of his body is so good at setting up for a throw and his arm strength is above average, there are times when Martinez will rush the delivery of his throw and try and toss it through a wall. That makes his throws to second go awry.

He threw out 3-of-12 runners in Portland and was 48-of-135 in throwing out would-be base stealers with the Storm, giving him a 34.7 percent mark on the season.

"I think throwing guys out was imperative," Lake Elsinore pitching coach Dave Rajsich said. "The biggest thing with Marty was he was able to catch and throw people out. He was throwing people out without really having to really focus on pushing these (pitchers) into the slide steps.

"Calling the game I still think he needs to improve on game calling, but he made big improvements from last year to this year."

Blocking balls laterally still give him some trouble, but he is very good at keeping bouncing balls that hit in his range from getting too far away, trusting his chest protector. He is also very game aware of what runners might be thinking and will go behind a runner with the ball.

"Marty, all year, in the bullpen was superb. He come and do the work, and it's so much nicer when you don't have to go look for your catchers and be yelling like ‘where the hell are they at? What's going on? Who's next?' They were just great all season."

The backstop has a solid hitting foundation, improving it from the previous season. He calmed down the entire swing and looks more relaxed in the box. He knows how to stay back on the ball and everything is more deliberate. The previous season saw him tacking more hacks than swings.

He also understands that going the other way is a strength. As a result, he tries to work the ball to the opposite field.

"With the batting, he hit .300," Lezcano said. "He stayed within himself. He hit a lot of balls up the middle and to right-center. I was very pleased."

Martinez will cheat in his setup. When faced with a fastball pitcher that tosses the rock in the mid-90s and works the inner half of the plate, he will get out on his front foot early. If he has guessed correctly, the success follows.

When he is caught on his front foot, off-speed pitches can beat him. It is a pitcher-by-pitcher adjustment that he makes and can lead to issues. The mechanical consistency is not fluid or present at all times. Because he is insanely strong, he can get away with some poor swings. The fear is it may catch up with him as the pitchers pick up on his habits.

Part of the reason he cheats is he can't sit back and catch up to the better fastballs. He needs to begin early or will always be late with his swing.

When he isn't out on his lead foot, he is adept at hitting off-speed pitches, waiting for the recognition and break before committing.

Proof of his cheating ways was evident in his walk totals. Martinez drew 51 the previous season and that number dropped to 38 across two leagues in 2009.

"I think he will be a backup catcher in the big leagues," Lezcano said. "He receives well, blocks well and throws well. If his hitting can come around, if he can hit .250, he is a big league player."

Conclusion: Martinez is one of the best defensive catchers in the system. His hitting has also taken positive strides. With a strong work ethic and mindset, Martinez profiles well as a backup catcher at the major league level that can play for long stretches with ease. He needs to continue refining his hitting approach and take more of an ownership in handling a pitching staff by being a true leader that is not only seen but also heard.

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