We have entered a new international free agent signing period, and it’s worth looking back at the biggest name from the previous class of Cubs IFA signings: Eddy Martinez, the 6’1″ right handed hitting outfielder from Cuba. Coming into the season, however, Martinez was a bit of an enigma. Some analysts who saw him raved about him. Others questioned his ability to make enough hard contact to succeed at a high level. Now that we have half a season of data on him, I would say the odds favor the analysts who were singing his praises, at least for now.
The jury is still out on the 21-year-old, and the overall numbers are not impressive (.245/.318/.372), but the trend line is moving in the right direction. Given his path to American professional baseball, it is expected that he would need to shake off some rust (especially given a challenging full-season assignment right out of the gate). We’ve seen that pattern with other free agents from Cuba in the past. That de-rusting should result in some steady improvement as the season progresses, and that is exactly what we see.
His OPS by month this year shows a steady upward trend. In April he managed just .623. That moved to .673 in May, and to .704 in June. The July numbers have too small of sample size to mean anything yet, but that figure is currently 1.006. We see progress in other numbers as well. For example, he had just 3 walks in April, but 13 and 10 in the following two months.
Defensively, he looks pretty good already and shows flashes of moving into the very good category rather quickly. He covers a lot of ground in the outfield, appears to track balls well, and has the arm to at least keep base runners honest. I don’t think he’ll emerge as an Albert Almora-level defender, but I think it is safe to say that he should be able to generate positive value with the glove.
That said, he does still have work to do. The strikeout rate is coming down, but is still sitting on the high side of 20%. The at bats are also improving, but he has yet to finish a month with a slugging percentage over .400. He has the speed to be a threat on the base paths, but has gotten caught in about a third of his attempts. All of those are things that can (and I think will) improve with time, so for now the Cubs are probably content to give him that time. I look for Martinez to finish the year in South Bend.
- Drew Rucinski: 5.2 IP, 7 R, 14 H, 1 BB, 3 K
- Munenori Kawasaki: 2 for 3, BB
- Mark Zagunis: 2 for 5, 2B
- Matt Murton: 2 for 5
- Tim Federowicz: 2 for 3, BB, HR
- Juan Perez: 1 for 4, 2B
- Logan Watkins: 1 for 4, HR
- Kristopher Negron: 2 for 4, SB
- Joe Nathan: 1 IP, 2 K
- Chesny Young: 2 for 6
- Ian Happ: 3 for 5, 2B, BB
- Billy McKinney: 2 for 4, 3B, BB
- Trey Martin: 2 for 5, SB
High A: Myrtle Beach Pelicans
The Pelicans were rained out.
- Ryan Kellogg: 5 IP, 3 R, 5 H, 1 BB, 6 K
- Kyle Twomey: 3 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 3 K
- P.J. Higgins: 0 for 1, 3 BB
- Eloy Jimenez: 2 for 4, 2B
- Eddy Martinez: 1 for 2, 2 BB
- Dylan Cease: 5 IP, 2 R, 4 H, 2 BB, 4 K
- Daniel Lewis: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 3 K
- Darryl Wilson: 1 for 4, 2B, SB
- Taylor Davis: 0 for 1, 3 BB
- Chris Pieters: 1 for 4, HR
- Wladimir Galindo: 1 for 4, HR
- Jose Paniagua: 2 for 4
- Robert Garcia: 2 for 4, 2B
- Tanner Griggs: 2 IP, 2 H, 4 K
- Luis Ayala: 3 for 5, SB
- Kevin Zamudio: 1 for 4, 3B, BB
- Isaac Paredes: 1 for 3, 2B, 2 BB
- Jhonny Pereda: 2 for 4
- Michael Cruz: 1 for 4, 2B
- Duane Underwood pitched for the Smokies yesterday, but was limited to 56 pitches over three innings. He came out to start the fourth, walked two straight batters, and exited with “an apparent injury.” Right now there are no further details.
- The Des Moines Register’s Tommy Birch has a very nice write up on Mark Zagunis. Zagunis is another good candidate to move up in the rankings when the Cubs’ farm system is re-ranked by the various outlets (including this one) mid-season.
- If you are looking for reasons for South Bend’s success this year, the team offensive stats paint a pretty good picture. The Cubs are third in the league in slugging percentage (.375), second in on base percentage (.335), and next to last in team strikeouts (551 in 82 games). If you are hitting plenty of extra base hits, getting on base at a high rate, and not striking out much (as compared to the league, anyway), you’re probably going to have a good season.
Picture via South Bend Cubs Twitter