Guardians' Martinez stepping up vs. older competition in AFL

October 19th, 2022

has been an organization favorite since signing with the Guardians for $500,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2018. In addition to his all-around tools, club officials appreciate the infielder's instincts, work ethic and personality. Despite losing the '20 season to the pandemic, he reached Double-A at age 20 this year.

Now Martinez is in the Arizona Fall League, polishing his game with the Peoria Javelinas. The No. 11 Guardians prospect has gone 9-for-36 (.250) with nine RBIs in his first 10 games while bouncing between third base, shortstop and second base.

"I'm pretty focused on trying to hit the ball to the middle and opposite way consistently," Martinez said. "I'm going to be focused on that and enjoying the game."

While Martinez is younger than all but two pitchers in the Fall League, he's not fazed by older competition. He held his own as the youngest regular in the Eastern League during the final month of the season and batted a combined .278/.378/.471 with 13 homers and 12 steals in 101 games between High-A and Double-A.

A switch-hitter, Martinez makes consistent contact and has the bat speed and projectable strength to provide 15-20 homers per season as he gets stronger and drives more balls in the air. He has a handsy swing from both sides of the plate and understands how to recognize pitches and work counts better than most players his age. His advanced skills aren't a surprise considering that he grew up around the game as the son of , who caught eight seasons in the Majors.

"It helped me very much, honestly," Martinez said. "It was wonderful when he played in the big leagues, because he took me around and he taught me everything about the game."

Primarily a shortstop during the regular season, Martinez can play all over the infield with average to solid speed, quick hands, solid arm strength and a finely tuned internal clock. He's part of Cleveland's deep stock of middle-infield prospects at the upper levels, which also includes , , and .

Martinez says that they all push each other to get better.

"In the season, when I feel I'm having trouble or I feel I'm doing something wrong, I just call any of them, like Tena or Rocchio, because we're all like brothers," he said. "It's a very good competition."

Guardians hitters in the Fall League

David Fry, 3B/1B/C: The player to be named in the November 2021 trade that sent J.C. Mejía from Cleveland to Milwaukee, Fry's best attributes are his power and his versatility. The Northwestern State product has played every position but pitcher in four seasons as a pro and batted .256/.329/.450 with 17 homers in 119 games for Triple-A Columbus this year.

Connor Kokx, OF: A 12th-round MLB Draft pick in 2021 from Long Beach State, Kokx gets the most out of his fringy to average tools thanks to his instincts and work ethic. He hit .234/.350/.366 with seven homers and 12 steals in 88 games at High-A this season.

Guardians pitchers in the Fall League

Mason Hickman, RHP: Hickman won the clinching game of the 2019 College World Series for Vanderbilt before going in the fifth round a year later. A finesse right-hander whose curveball is his best pitch, he posted a 4.11 ERA with a .228 opponent average and 103 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings between High-A and Double-A in 2022.

Cade Smith, RHP: Signed as an undrafted free agent from Hawaii in 2020, Smith works primarily with a low-90s fastball and a low-80s slider. That combination allowed him to record a 2.93 ERA with 99 strikeouts while holding opponents to a .178 average across 61 1/3 innings between High-A and Double-A this year.

Hunter Stanley, RHP: Stanley has a history of missing bats with his low-90s fastball and low-80s slider that dates to his college days at Southern Mississippi. An 11th-round pick in 2021, he had a 1.84 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings during his pro debut at High-A this season.

Lenny Torres, RHP: A 2018 supplemental first-round choice from a New York high school, Torres once ranked as one of Cleveland's best pitching prospects before having Tommy John surgery in May 2019. Currently operating in the low 90s with his fastball and low 80s with his slider, he had a 6.00 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 33 innings in High-A in 2022.