When folks discuss filling the vacated left and right field positions for the Kansas City Royals with in house options, Jose Martinez’s name generally is fourth or even fifth on the list. Not just us random know-it-all bloggers, either. Dayton Moore when rattling off in-house names went through four of them before getting to Martinez.
Of course, that’s progress for Martinez, who started the 2014 season in independent ball and finished it as a 26 year old playing A-ball (where he hit .319/.375/.444). A spot on the 40 man roster and being mentioned, no matter how far down on the list, is a giant leap from where Jose was not very long ago.
Let’s also keep in mind, this is the 40 man roster not of the Chip Ambres-ish Royals, but of the World Champion Kansas City Royals. Posting the best batting average in the Pacific Coast League since 1958 will get a guy from oblivion to this close to the majors.
Sure, 2015 was Martinez’s age 27 season, so he is hardly a phenom. You can take heart that last season was his first above AA or use that as a criticism. One can point to his completely unsustainable .434 BABIP in Omaha last year as the fuel for his eye popping triple slash of .384/.461/.563 and be totally logical. He simply will not post a BABIP anywhere near that again in his career unless he shows up at a fantasy camp somewhere.
However, it is worth noting that in the nine minor league stops in Jose’s career where he collected at least 150 plate appearances or more, Martinez posted BABIPs of less than .299 just once and lower than .321 only twice. Take minor league BABIP numbers for what they are worth, but Martinez has also posted an on-base percentage below .340 just twice in his journeys through the underside of baseball.
I suppose it was a combination of age and lack of progress in AA that pushed Martinez to the independent ball. Hell, maybe he looked at somebody wrong. One’s margin for error if you have not pushed out of AA by your mid-twenties gets pretty thin. Omaha manger Brian Poldberg described him as “a great kid” and a guy “who came here to work”. If there was attitude or lack of effort in Martinez’s past, it does not exist any longer (if it ever did).
I probably saw Martinez play six times or so this past summer and Martinez ‘looks’ like a hitter. He was not just swinging and getting lucky. He had a good approach at the plate and, at least in AAA for one summer, strike zone awareness. His walk rate in 2015 was well above his career rate, but he has been a guy who pretty consistently posts an on-base percentage 50 points above his batting average. Not great, but serviceable.
Of course, with Jose Martinez comes plenty of doubt. His slugging percentage was stupid out of line with anything he had done previously. The highest ‘slug’ Jose posted prior to 2015 was .444 in 2014. His career slugging percentage is under .400 and one would expect that extended major league time would likely yield a similar result. Unless…just maybe Martinez has gotten stronger in his later twenties or maybe just plain figured something out. It happens.
In an organization that seemingly has speed and defense guys just hanging around at almost every level, Martinez is capable in the field, but likely pales in comparison to even an Orlando or Eibner. He’s got decent speed, but does not ‘blaze’ as quite literally tens of other Royals and Royals’ farmhands do. In short, he is not the prototypical ‘Royal type’.
Listen, a good portion of us are still holding out hope that Alex Gordon comes to terms and instead of figuring out who will play everyday in left, we can worry about who can platoon with Jarrod Dyson in right. I have no problem filling that role internally and might well lobby for Martinez (who has hit right handers as good as left in the last two seasons, but prior to had displayed more traditional splits) to get first shot.