Let’s not forget about a former top prospect in the Astros’ system.
Last season, the Astros relied upon numerous pitchers. Well, 27 pitchers if you want to be exact. One of the 27 pitchers was Francis Martes. In a way, it feels like everyone has forgotten about the former top prospect.
Look, look. I understand. Martes didn’t have the most memorable of debuts for a pitcher with a track record like his in the minors. After all, the then-21 year old posted a 5.80 ERA in 54.1 innings in the majors last season. And he worked almost entirely out of the bullpen besides four spot starts. The right-hander also did not make the postseason roster. Fair or not, Martes did lose some of the luster off of his top prospect status.
That said, it would be foolish to write off Martes heading into the 2018 season.
While there isn’t necessarily a spot for Martes in the Astros’ starting rotation on paper, he does provide value on the depth chart. An opportunity or two may arise. Nowadays with the 10-day disabled list in play, teams may start to be more liberal in its usage. The Los Angeles Dodgers did so last season with their starting rotation. If a starter needs a start or two off, it makes sense to use the 10-day disabled list to your advantage. But to pull off such a strategy, teams will need quality pitching depth on the roster. This also means that some pitchers who could start may spend part of the season in the bullpen. Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock fit this mold. And so does Martes.
To drive home point, let’s use Mike Fiers as an example. Yes, Mike Fiers led the rotation in innings pitched in 2017. Yes, that Mike Fiers. And the Astros still managed to win the World Series. Crazy, right? In case you didn’t already know, Fiers is now with the Detroit Tigers.
So, the Astros are missing a lot of innings with Fiers now residing in Michigan. It’ll help if Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton can avoid long stints on the disabled list. The inclusion of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole limits the number of opportunities for Martes. However, baseball will be baseball. Injuries will happen, sooner or later. And Martes could receive an opportunity to start if the dominoes fall one way or the other.
In terms of “stuff”, Martes is still a pitcher who has above-average velocity on his four-seam fastball. He also throws a hard change up and a slider. Martes primarily throws his fastball more than 50% of the time while utilizing his slider a bit more than a third of the time. He has the pitches to succeed in the rotation, however, one would like to see a bit more from his change up. If he can make his change up a useful pitch, then Martes’ could take a legitimate step as a starter. At the worst, you hope he can use his four-seam and slider combination as a valuable reliever.
At this point in time, it is difficult to see Martes making the roster with the Astros in March.
The high walk rate (12.5 BB%) will continue to be detrimental if it isn’t addressed. The acquisitions of Gerrit Cole, Joe Smith and Hector Rondon makes it all the more difficult for Martes to crack the pitching staff. McHugh and Peacock, who have similar roles to what Martes could asked to do, are also blocking his path to a full-time gig in the majors.
Martes will likely begin the season in Fresno, barring an unforeseen development. But don’t forget that Martes will reside on the short list to be promoted in case of injury. So, yeah, you shouldn’t forget about him anytime soon.
**Statistics and information courtesy of Fangraphs**