2B/SS Jose Martinez came into the season with lofty expectations after a breakout season in AA, where he hit .300/.337/.472 over 412 at bats. Baseball America ranked him the Cardinal’s 17th best prospect heading into 2008, and Kevin Goldstein went as far as to rank him the Cards’ 7th best prospect.
Disappointingly, things haven’t worked out as well as we had hoped for Jose going into the year. He’s been one of the Texas League’s least productive hitters with a horrendously bad .598 OPS, the league’s worst among qualified batters. So what’s the story?
For one thing, Martinez has stopped hitting line drives. Last season, his line drive percentage was a robust 23%. This year he’s down to 14%, which again puts him at the bottom of the pack among TL batters. Jose’s BABIP is a lowly .247, which is partly due to the lack of line drives, and partly from hitting into bad luck. Let’s pretend for a moment his BABIP was around league average, say .309. That would give him a .291/.328/.377 line, which obviously looks a lot better, but still is a far cry from last season’s power output. But if he could get back to lacing liners, he should get back to some doubles, which of course would positively effect his SLG.
One thing that has kept Martinez in the lineup everyday is his glove. His fielding runs above average is +14 (Baseball Prospectus’ metric), which makes him the best defensive infielder in the Texas League. Since Tyler Greene‘s promotion, Martinez has moved back over to SS. Hopefully he can catch a little more luck, and more importantly rediscover his line drive stroke. He’s still only 22, so there’s time.
Daniel Descalso is another 2B that has been a huge disappointment this season. I called Descalso one of my 2008 sleepers, citing his college track record and the fact that the Cardinals saw it fit to make him to make him their 3rd round pick last year. Rather then breaking out as I predicted, Descalso has made me look stupid by hitting for a paultry .635 OPS. But wait, he may not be making me look so stupid after all. He’s come on as of late; in the past 4 weeks he’s hitting .307/.347/.466. A big part of that has been an increase in line drives, as he’s been hitting them at a 26% clip during that time.
Descalso’s suffered by some bad luck this season with a BABIP of .261. On the flip side, Daryl Jones has had all the good luck; his BABIP was .399 despite hitting for just a 4% difference in line drives: Jones, 22%-Descalso 18%. Let’s just pretend Descalso is a lot more lucky and we’ll give him a .346 hit rate. (Quick explanation: It may sound like I’m cherry picking, and maybe I am a bit, but the FSL’s average BABIP is .342. While major league average BABIP is .300, minor league BABIPs tend to get a lot higher, especially in the lower minors.) That would make his line would be .310/.365/.455 for the season. I think those kinda of numbers would make us at least a little more excited about Descalso.
My main point is that we shouldn’t just write off these two middle infield prospects right now just because of their “slash” lines, there’s more underneath the surface. I have hopes to see better performance out of both of them for the rest of this season and the next.
(Note:Stats used are current up to 8/2.)