Jonathan Martinez is the PTBNL in the Darwin Barney trade. It is somewhat surprising that this has happened on a number of levels. First is the fact that Jonathan Martinez is more than just an organizational filler type. The second is that there was a fair bit of smoke that it was Jonathan Martinez when the trade happened. The starter was pulled prior to throwing a first pitch in his last start on the day of the Darwin Barney trade. This is surprising because usually news like this doesn’t match up, and it is somewhat surprising that he was not just announced right away since that was the reason for pulling him from his start. I am sure there were some procedural reasons for announcing it as a PTBNL first.
Martinez is an age appropriate starter in the A ball Midwest League. Martinez is the 16th youngest pitcher in the league, and is poised to join the most talented staff in the Cubs organization which features two starters younger than Martinez in Duane Underwood Jen-Ho Tseng. He has put up good numbers in his time in the Midwest League. His ERA dropped this year from 3.51 to 3.47. His strikeout rate has also jumped noticeably in the league moving from 15.5% to 21.2%.
Despite the improving results his stock has dropped from last year. Martinez checked in at number 18 in the Dodgers system prior to 2013. Here is what they had to say about Martinez prior to 2013:
Scouting Grades* (present/future): Fastball: 5/6 | Slider: 4/5 | Changeup: 4/5 | Control: 4/5 | Overall: 4/5
The Venezuelan teenager had a very successful United States debut in 2012, pitching well in the rookie-level Arizona League and earning a late promotion to finish the year in the Pioneer League. He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he has the makings of a good three-pitch mix that allowed him to strike out a batter per inning during his stateside debut. His fastball projects to be above-average and he could have two Major League average offerings in his slider and changeup. He’s generally around the strike zone and didn’t hurt himself with walks in his first step up the long organizational ladder.
The fact that his stock has dropped completely off the list this year in the Dodgers system despite improving results suggests his stuff has not taken a step forward. Here is what Dodgers Digest had about him:
Martinez was one of the Dodgers’ better international signings in the final years of Frank McCourt’s ownership reign. Martinez was signed out of Venezuela and debuted in the Dominican Summer League at age 17. He began 2013 with Great Lakes before getting demoted to Ogden. He was promoted back to Great Lakes and actually pitched better at full-season ball than he did in rookie ball. Martinez has an 88-92 MPH fastball that could tick up as he matures on the mound. He also has a slider that flashes solid-average potential and a changeup that could be at least average once he figures out how to be consistent with it.
He exhibits better-than-average control and command with his pitches. He has a little funk in his delivery that helps him to be deceptive. However, a significant drop in his strikeout rate in 2013 is concerning, especially since his ground ball rate didn’t improve much. He’ll need to figure that out as he advances. He spent most of his time with Great Lakes in 2013 and could either return there to start, with a promotion to Rancho Cucamonga. If not, he could begin with Rancho outright. It’d be a somewhat aggressive assignment for the 20-year-old.
The results so far have been good as his strikeout rate has ticked back up. And the K%-BB% is at a near career best 16.7%. The lack of love for him suggests that the scouting on him has not been that positive. His fastball has not added any velocity from the high 80s-low 90s in his scouting reports from 2013. The secondaries have not taken a step forward either.
Martinez is a decent prospect that has some upside. He is not the answer for the Cubs long term needs at pitching, but he is more than organizational filler as well. The pickup has to be more than we could have hoped for in Darwin Barney, and gives another reason to check out Kane County this season.