No. 2 prospect Martinez joins Blue Jays as youth movement continues

June 27th, 2024

TORONTO -- The youth movement is on in Toronto, both by choice and necessity.

The Blue Jays have promoted No. 2 prospect (No. 68 in MLB), the gifted young slugger who has been knocking on the door all season. Long considered to have the most power potential in this organization outside of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the 22-year-old brings offensive upside to a lineup desperately in need of it.

Martinez takes the place of shortstop Bo Bichette, who was placed on the IL with a right calf strain just prior to the Blue Jays’ 4-3 loss to the Red Sox Tuesday night at Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays only expect Bichette to need a minimum stay on the IL, but Martinez will get his shot to make a first impression with his MLB debut. He joins recent callups and as the Blue Jays expand their reach -- and their appetite for risk -- in their search for offense.

“If he’s not in the starting lineup, I think that having his bat on the bench is beneficial,” manager John Schneider said. “It’s not something he’s used to, but he’ll have to get used to it a little bit. There will definitely be games he’s starting, whether it’s [against] a left-handed pitcher or right-handed. Hopefully he continues to swing it the way he’s been swinging it.”

After launching 30 and 28 home runs in his past two full seasons in the Minor Leagues, Martinez has hit 16 with an .867 OPS through 63 games in Triple-A Buffalo this year. Martinez got off to a scorching-hot start in April, and while that’s cooled, he has shown an ability to adjust that wasn’t nearly as present earlier in his prospect days.

“I’ve been working very hard,” Martinez said through a club interpreter. “Yes, on my power and my hitting, but on my defensive side, too. I’m here now and I’m just trying to show them what I’m capable of doing.”

The hitter: Orelvis is all upside
Two years ago, after Martinez had launched a home run in a Spring Training game, Vladdy compared him to “a young Hanley Ramirez.” Asked about that same comparison this past spring, fellow Dominican star Edwin Encarnación agreed … sort of.

“He has more power than Hanley. There’s more power than Hanley,” Encarnación said in February. “He just needs to learn his strike zone, but he’s going to get it. To me, he has more talent than Hanley at that age. He’s a great, great player. The good thing is that he likes to listen. He’s making adjustments.”

Hyperbole is never far from a top prospect with “wow” tools like Martinez and his power, but that’s the fun of it all. Top prospects represent hope above all else. This could be a one-week cameo in which Martinez struggles or we could watch on as he boots the door down, demanding at-bats ahead of schedule.

Regardless of how likely it is that any prospect reaches their ceiling, Martinez represents the hope and potential upside that this lineup needs.

How will it all work?
This is where we get to Martinez’s defense and the realities of the Blue Jays' roster, neither topic as exciting as his power potential, but each just as important.

Martinez will primarily play second base with third an option as well, and Schneider didn’t rule out a DH game in the right matchup. Left-handed pitchers are a particularly good look for Martinez, as he’s put up a 1.067 OPS against them this season in Triple-A.

For now, Martinez will need to hit enough to cover up his defense. He’s making strides at second, but he’s not exactly here to be a late-game defensive replacement.

“I’m working on reactions, my reactions to the ball and being quick with my first steps,” Martinez said.

“There’s still going to be a learning curve defensively with the speed of the game and things like that,” Schneider said, “but he obviously can swing it. We’ll get him in there for a few games, for sure.”

For now, Martinez’s window is tied to Bichette, who the Blue Jays hope can return from the IL on June 25 when his 10 days are up. Injuries and performance elsewhere on this roster can change that quickly, and if Martinez catches fire in his big league debut, he can force the Blue Jays into an uncomfortable decision, too, as they search for momentum anywhere they can get it.