By JAY LeBLANC
It’s Fernando Martinez’s potential that has made him a staple at the top of prospect lists in recent years, but it’s his production so far this season that punched his ticket to the big leagues. The New York Mets summoned the 20-year-old outfielder from Triple-A on Tuesday after he hit .291 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 42 games for the Buffalo Bisons. He’ll get the majority of the starts in right field as long as Ryan Church’s troublesome right hamstring keeps him on the disabled list, and could stick for good if he performs well.
Tuesday’s promotion is just the latest challenge the Mets have presented Martinez with since they signed him for $1.3 million as a 16-year-old in 2005. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Dominican has been among the youngest players in his league at every minor league stop, and the solid but unspectacular numbers he has posted - as well as his frequent injuries - have led many a casual observer to question what all the fuss was about. Scouts always insisted that Martinez’s uncanny bat speed would translate to power in time, and the fact that he matched his previous season-high for home runs before the end of May this year suggests it is beginning to happen.
I had the chance to speak with Martinez last August while he and his Double-A Binghamton Mets teammates were in Bowie, Md., to take on the Baltimore Orioles-affiliated Bowie Baysox, and he seemed very happy about the present and optimistic about the future.
Q: The Mets have been aggressive in advancing you through their minor league system. How much do you think that’s helped your development?
A: Oh, you know, it’s great. It’s my third year here in the Mets organization, and I want to keep getting better and keep taking it to the next level.
Q: You recently played in the Futures Game at Yankee Stadium. What was that experience like?
A: It was great, man. Everything was different; the people, New York, Yankee Stadium. It was great to play there.
Q: Your game is still developing, but when it’s all said and done, do you think you’ll be a leadoff hitter or a middle-of-the-order guy?
A: I don’t know, I don’t know really. I’m leadoff right now mainly because I don’t play too many games. I hit leadoff here so I have more at bats, but I don’t know.
Q: Could you describe your approach at the plate? Do you try to get into the pitcher’s head, or do you just react to what’s thrown?
A: (Laughs.) You know, sometimes you try figure the pitcher out.
Q: What are some aspects of your game that you’re trying to work on this year?
A: Right now I’m working on everything. I’m working in the outfield, because I’ve been playing center field. Right now I’m working on the corners - left, right. I’m also working on my hitting … I try to work on everything.
Q: Is there any player, past or present, that you either look up to or try to model your approach after?
A: Not really. Not really.
Q: How soon do you think you’ll be ready to help the Mets?
A: I don’t know. I don’t know when. I work hard every day and hopefully help my team, and get better.
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Click here to view the original Fernando Martinez National Pastime Prospect Q&A