It’s not often you see a player drafted out of a Division II school in the 20th round move through the minor leagues as quickly and emphatically as Houston’s J.D. Martin has. Martinez had been drafted in 2006 (in the 36th round by the Minnesota Twins) but opted for school. Martinez attended Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where he dominated each of his three seasons. In his final season, Martinez batted .428 with 15 HRs, 57 RBIs, and a single-season school record 73 runs on his way to being named a D-II first-team All American. The Astros proudly made him their 20th round selection in the 2009 June draft.
Martinez didn’t fare much different in his first stint in the minors than he did in college. In the Appy League, he hit .403 with 5 HRs and 23 RBIs in 19 games. That’s all it took for the Astros to bump the outfielder from Rookie-A to Low-A Tri-City in the New York-Penn League on July 12, 2009. Martinez would capture the NYPL batting title after qualifying on the next to last day of the season. In his 53 NYPL games, Martinez hit .326 with 61 hits.
Astros management and development directors determined one Low-A batting crown was enough and started J.D. Martinez in High-A Lexington of the South Atlantic League for 2010. Baseball America named Martinez the best hitting prospect in the league. Martinez .362 average ranked first in the SAL League and second in all of minor league baseball. He also finished first in on-base percentage (.433) and slugging percentage (.598). The 15 HRs and 64 RBIs Martinez racked up before his promotion each ranked second in the league as well. J.D. Martinez became the first player in the Astros’ 2009 draft class to reach AA.
For a while it looked like maybe Martinez simply played to the level of those around him as he improved each step of the way. From Rookie-A to Low-A to High-A, Martinez increased his BB% and decreased his SO% at each level.
Now in Double A, he is finally seeing equal competition. However, he’s still raking. For Double-A Corpus Christi, Martinez’ line currently stands at .319/.378/.454 (all career professional lows at any level but still stellar). The reigning SAL League best hitter just celebrated his 23rd birthday 3 days ago and will almost undoubtedly start 2011 at Triple-A Round Rock. The versatility of Martinez can only help him reach the majors. He’s played left field, right field, DH, and first base in the minors. I expect to see Martinez in Houston sooner rather than later and there’s no sign he’s going to slow down when he does.