The Chicago Cubs have named South Bend outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez and South Bend starting pitcher Jose Paulino the Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Month for July. Yes, there was someone in the system who had a better month than Eloy Jimenez, which is borderline unbelievable.
Martinez, you’ll recall, was signed by the Cubs as an international free agent out of Cuba last October, after a long courtship and rumors with other teams. If you remember back, Martinez’s ultimate skill level was hotly debated, with reviews coming in as high as “a lesser Mike Trout,” and as low as a potentially nice fourth outfielder. So, as you can imagine, the 21-year-old’s arrival on the scene in 2016 was highly anticipated.
After getting off to a fairly slow start – which wasn’t unexpected given his lengthy time away from baseball – Martinez really turned things up in the second half. Then, in the month of July, Martinez exploded to the tune of a .362/.446/.564 in over 100 plate appearances. He also worked a 13.4% walk rate, 20.5% strikeout rate and .202 ISO. At the end of the month, his numbers were good for a .456 wOBA and a 192 wRC+. In the mid-season reranking of the Bleacher Nation Top 40 Prospect List, Martinez squeaked into the Cubs top five, and this is what Luke had to say:
I can see Martinez turning into a very good defensive corner outfielder or above average defensive center fielder with 15+ home runs and 30+ steals one day. Now that he pretty much has a full season of experience behind him, don’t be surprised if the Cubs look to move him up the system more aggressively.
If Jose Paulino’s name is ringing a bell, it’s likely because he just entered into the Cubs top 30 prospect rankings according to MLB Pipeline, with the graduation of Willson Contreras. Paulino, 21, is a tall, skinny left-hander, starting for South Bend. He throws a fastball (which sits between 91-94 MPH, but has touched 96 MPH), a hard slider and a change-up – both of which have a lot of promise, but need some work.
In a relatively small sample size, Paulino has been very impressive this season. In his six starts with the Eugene Emeralds (before being promoted), Paulino kept a 0.51 ERA (1.88 FIP) through 35.0 innings pitched. Then, upon reaching South Bend, he made two starts, allowing just 3 (2.25 ERA) earned runs on 10 hits, 4 walks and 8 strikeouts. Across two levels in the month of July, then, Paulino carried a 1.50 ERA with 31 strikeouts in just 30 innings pitched. In the mid-season reranking of the Bleacher Nation Top 40 Prospect List, Paulino received an agressively high ranking, as the number 27 prospect overall.
Paulino has been one of the surprises of the Cubs’ system. He just turned 21 in early April, and then cruised through the first half of the Eugene season with an ERA of 0.51. That earned him a promotion to South Bend where he gave up three runs on five hits in his first start. This is an aggressive ranking for a guy enjoying his first really good season, but his low 90s fastball and good breaking stuff bode well for his future. Keep an eye on this one.
Congratulations to both Eddy Martinez and Jose Paulino. I especially love when up-and-coming prospects (with plenty of promise) put it together on the field for a nice long stretch.