The Cardinals young, prized Dominican hurler, Carlos Martinez has been showing signs of wearing down as this season has worn on and I think it is time for the Cardinals to think about limiting his innings by pulling a Swagerty and putting him in the bullpen for the rest of the year.
This has been a huge year for Martinez. He finally got his work visa sorted out with the US and was allowed to begin to pitch for the Cardinals US affiliates. His first season in a new country where he does not speak much (if at all) of the language. Granted he has plenty of teammates who speak his language, but that is still quite and adjustment.
Last season in the DSL, his first outing was May 25th and his last was August 12th, pitching 59 innings on the season. This season, his first outing was May 7th and his most recent outing was August 8th, pitching 71.1 innings. That is not a huge gap so far, but against much higher competition and pressure than he faced in the Dominican Summer League. Another start with be 20 more innings than last year, then another 2 for 30+ more innings than last year. The Cardinals need to be careful with their most prized prospects and Carlos Martinez is high amongst them.
Over the last 4 starts and 16 innings, he has walked 12 batters, while striking out 15. His ratio is still on the plus side, but far removed from the 4/1 K to BB ratio he had in Quad Cities this year. His strikeouts are way down in Palm Beach and his walks are way up. Some variance in the numbers is to be expected based on moving up a level, but he is down 3 K/9 vs his QC numbers and up 2 BB/9. More disturbingly, after dominating the low-A level with an astonishingly low 2% line drive rate, he has a 24% line drive rate in Palm Beach. And those line drives are coming directly out of his groundball numbers which have dropped 20% as he moved up leagues.
Two of his last 4 starts have been less than 3 innings in length, with his first two HRs allowed on the year coming in his last two games. Jordan Swagerty has thrown roughly 10 more innings on the year and the Cardinals moved him to the pen to protect his arm going forward.
Carlos Martinez has nothing more to prove this season, he has made his presence felt in the US minor league system and proved that the hype around him was warranted. He dominated low-A as a 19 year old and then has held his own but struggled a bit in high-A despite its pitcher-friendly nature. Now, Martinez is showing signs of fatigue and the Cardinals need to control his innings and make sure he is developed and ready in 2013, 2014 and beyond.