Well, here we are almost a month into the 2017 season. While there are plenty of positive surprises (see Eric Thames), there are plenty of Major Leaguers off to slow starts. For those off to sluggish beginnings, minor leaguers having solid starts will not help job security. In this week’s ODC, we look closely at Mets' shortstop Amed Rosario and Astros' starting pitcher Francis Martes.
Amed Rosario (SS, NYM)
Rosario made his debut at a mere 17 years old in 2013, after signing the previous year out of the Dominican Republic. Early on, it was evident the kid could hold his own. Since the start of 2016, however, his play has given the Mets hope that they have signed their next bona-fide star to play at Citi Field for years to come. Rosario’s overall minor league numbers are impressive: .287/.334/.393, 10 home runs, 155 RBI, and 46 stolen bases. His 2016 season by itself shows the promise scouts have seen in him since a young age: .324/.374/.459, five home runs, 71 RBI, 19 stolen bases. It is clear, no one will mistake him for teammate Yoenis Cespedes in the power department, but at just age 21, Rosario still has lots of time to develop a bit more pop.
So far in 2017, out of 29 hits, 25 have been base knocks, which speaks to Rosario’s game. He profiles as a good contact hitter who will use his wheels on the base paths to not only create runs, but stretch that contact into doubles and triples. His disciplined eye at the plate has been a strong part of his game, as evidenced by just 274 K’s in 1578 plate appearances in 376 Minor League games. While it is not a part of the game that helps fantasy owners on the stat sheet, Rosario’s arm and fielding skills grade out the highest of his game, and could be the reason we see him in the Majors this season.
With veterans Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera able to man shortstop at the big-league level, there is no urgency to bring the youngster up. However, even though it is still early, the Mets sit at just 8-11, and may feel the need to spark the club with the dynamic prospect. His fielding could be the ticket that gets him to Citi Field way before September call-ups, but his .414 batting average to start 2017 does not hurt his chances either.
Francis Martes (SP, HOU)
On trade-deadline day 2014, Martes was the third player listed heading to Houston from Miami in a deal that sent Jared Cosart to the Marlins. It turns out, he was the key piece of the deal, and has developed into not only the top pitching prospect in the organization, but the top overall prospect for the Astros as well. Over the course of his minor-league career, Martes has shown that his fastball can stay in the mid 90’s, but he can uncork it up into the high 90’s on occasion. In the minors, Martes has posted a 2.97 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP, and 319 strikeouts in 333.2 innings. The talent is evident, but in order to succeed at the Major-League level, the 21-year-old will have to cut down the men he allows on base, as evidenced with his career WHIP.
His 2017 stat line thus far is a curious one, but it tells a story of a pitcher who has been allowing men on base at a high rate, but is able to pitch out of jams and minimize the damage. For Triple – A Fresno, Martes has posted a 2.92 ERA, and a 2.19 WHIP (yes you read that correctly). The WHIP is a product of teams hitting .300 off him in his three starts, and his 12 walks in 12 innings pitched. Remarkably, Martes has not allowed a home run yet this season, and in his career, has allowed just nine home runs, which allows him to keep the ERA at a respectable level. While there are no rumblings of his call up, the Astros rotation is not exactly a steady bunch.
With Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers enjoying dominant seasons so far, the three through five options have struggled mightily. Charlie Morton, Joe Musgrove, and Mike Fiers own ERA’s of 4.29, 5.40, and 5.91 respectively. If the backend continues to struggle, the team may not have a choice but to give Martes a shot. It would benefit both he and the team if he could hone his craft a bit in the minors, and cut down the number of baserunners he allows. If not, it could lead to big mistakes, and more balls leaving the yard. There is a lot to like about Martes, and where the Astros are in the standings will have a major influence in when we see the youngster in an Astros uniform.