1. Jose Martinez. His father Carlos Martinez was a major league player (known as “Cafe Martinez” or his coffee loving habit). Jose (who tweets as “Cafe Jr.” despite dwarfing his father) finished the season with the all time PCL batting average record at .384.
He also finished, leading the league in getting on base over 46% of the time. He was second in the league this year in slugging at .563 and first in OPS at 1.024. At 27 he came up from independent ball last year and patiently listened to his hitting coach on how to change his swing.
Martinez is 6’6″ and thought of himself as a home run hitter, but he had never impressive home run numbers. A .290 career minor leaguer, Tommy Gregg told him to swing down on the ball or swing straight on. In other words, go for contact, not for the fences.
He had only a decent opening month. but then in May he went on a tear. He was hurt for several weeks. Returning from the DL, he then went on another batting rampage, not so much with power, but with hits. And then the other teams started to walk him more.
However, he was hurting for at bats because of his injury. He was given virtually no time off the last two months because he did not have enough plate appearances to win the batting crown. Eventually he gradually gained the required number of PA’s. Would he be able to maintain his high average by playing every day to get 5 or 6 plate appearances and would he maintain his average? For the last week, Martinez seemed not to get too much to hit (or possibly he was wearing down). He went for several games without getting a hit, but he usually collected a walk or two.
His batting average went from .392 on August 27th down to .380. Then he gained strength, and the average went back up, and he was finally pulled from the final game by his manager to seal the record at .384. Martinez had 10 homers, 62 rbis, in 356 at bats.
His downsides are several: Some say he is too old at 27. But he has a good pedigree and took advantage of his coaching. He has some speed with 8 steals, but he is not nearly in the defensive league of a Cain or Gordon. He doesn’t make many errors. But not many spectacular plays in right field. He is also not a top prospect drafted by the Royals. Next year he will be a free agent. So whether he even gets a contract from the Royals is in question since they have so little invested in him.
Yet, it is not as if the Royals are stacked with outfielders in 2016. Most think Gordon will be gone, and Rios is somewhat dubious as a right fielder. Cain obviously will patrol center. Dyson and Orlando are good defensively but are not great hitters. Of course it is impossible to know if Martinez’ numbers will even closely resemble in the bigs what he did in his year at AAA.
Still the question remains: would it be foolish for the Royals not to resign him and see what he can do at Surprise. It probably won’t take much money to sign him. Ask the Omaha announcers what they think of him. They and the coaching staff rave. But it is only one year of those kinds of AAA numbers. Is it enough to give him a chance next year in Suprise? General Manager and his staff will make that decision. But I think Martinez quietly let his bat do the talking this year.
Next: Balbino Fuenmayor and Brett Eibner