Martinez was signed by the Tigers in 2007 as a potential five-tool player. He received a solid bonus from the organization, but was not a highly coveted amateur.
Making his professional debut in the VSL in 2008, Martinez turned in an outstanding season. He hit a robust .321 in 68 games with four doubles and one home run. He also showed off his speedy side by swiping 20 bases in 30 attempts.
Brought stateside for spring training in 2009, Martinez stayed in Extended Spring Training after camp broke and he impressed the organization's developmental staff with his performance in the controlled environment. He spent much of the summer in the Gulf Coast League as an 18-year old.
In 43 GCL games that summer, he hit a paltry .222 and only walked five times while striking out 28 times. With nine doubles and two home runs he showed an improvement in power, and he also showed a better stolen base rate with eleven steals in twelve attempts.
After starting another year in EST, the Tigers were aggressive with Martinez last year, pushing him to High-A as a 19-year old. In 89 games for the Flying Tigers, Martinez surprised many with a .271/.330/.353 line. He showed a solid approach with 28 walks and just 71 strikeouts, while also driving the ball some with 17 doubles, a triple, and three home runs.
The Tigers continued their aggressive pushing of Martinez by sending him to the Arizona Fall League in 2010, where he hit .278/.304/.389 in 17 games for Surprise as one of the youngest players in the league.
The term "five-tool prospect" gets tossed around far too much these days, but Martinez does actually possess the skills to fulfill such a label.
Martinez is at least a plus runner that will earn 65 grades from scouts at times, and one former manager dubbed his running ability "game breaking." He has drastically improved his base running instincts, and he should be able to steal 20 bases annually as he continues to learn how to read pitchers better.
In addition to his speed, Martinez has a knack for contact with a solid understanding of the strike zone. He improved his pitch recognition skills throughout last summer, and he should be able to work counts as he matures as a hitter.
Martinez has some power potential, but he has to learn to elevate the end of his swing better to generate loft on the ball. Some scouts believe he has the potential for average to above power, giving him an outside chance at being a 20-20 type player.
Defensively, Martinez has the softest hands of any infielder in the organization. He sucks up ground balls with ease and rarely bobbles them. His footwork can still get loose at times and though his arm is strong, his throws will get away from him at times because he is not set.
Martinez has the raw potential to be an above-average big league regular if he can complete the transition from toolsy prospect to a player capable of using those tools in game situations.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% A+
Martinez has not had any significant injuries during his professional career. He has continued to improve his body as he has grown, and there could still be more growth in him as he has long arms and legs, and big hands and feet, leading some to see a bigger person still, once he is done growing.
The Tigers were determined to start Martinez in Double-A this spring, and so far they have held to that mantra. He will be the everyday third baseman in Erie on Opening Day.
Despite reaching Double-A as a 20-year old, Martinez still has a lot of work to do before he is ready for the Major Leagues. He could spend the entire season at Double-A and still not be ready for a shot at a big league job until the start of 2013.
With Nick Castellanos now in the organization, and the Tigers likely to push him through the system rapidly, Martinez needs to take a big step forward in 2011 or he could be in jeopardy of falling to second on the depth chart to replace Brandon Inge following the 2012 season.
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