ARLINGTON -- The Rangers announced the signing of Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez, and they are planning to start him off with the club's Dominican Summer League team.Martinez agreed to sign with the Rangers on March 6, but there was much legal and medical work needed to be done before
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers announced the signing of Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez, and they are planning to start him off with the club's Dominican Summer League team.
Martinez agreed to sign with the Rangers on March 6, but there was much legal and medical work needed to be done before the signing was official. He has been working out at the team's academy in Santo Domingo.
Rangers assistant general manager Mike Daly said Martinez has not had a real Spring Training, so they want to start him off slow in the Dominican Summer League. Given his track record at the highest levels of Cuban baseball, Martinez could move quickly once he is established.
"We'll make a decision later where he will go from there," Daly said. "Our expectation is he will play somewhere in the United States in 2018."
In Martinez, Texas has acquired an elite prospect -- a center fielder with speed, aggressiveness and power -- who was coveted by a number of Major League teams. The Rangers turned their attention to Martinez after missing out on Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani in December.
Daly said it took the entire organization to get the deal done, from the scouts who first watched Martinez to the front office and ownership. The Rangers had to make multiple trades for international bonus pool money to have the resources to be competitive in the pursuit of Martinez.
"We spent a lot of time getting around him, getting to know him and learning about him as a person," Daly said. "We were engaged with him on a daily basis. It's a great day for the organization to bring in a player like Julio Pablo Martinez."
Martinez said it is his goal to be in the Major Leagues within three years.
"Since I was a small boy, I have always dreamed of being a professional baseball player and playing for a Major League organization," Martinez said in a conference call. "I am very happy for the opportunity, and I am very happy the Rangers have given me this opportunity. And I am happy to play in a city that is warm like I am used to. I'm very excited for the opportunity to get started and chase my dream."
Martinez, 22, has spent the past two seasons in the independent Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball (Can-Am League), first with a traveling Cuban national team in 2016, and then with Trois-Rivieres last season. With Trois-Rivieres, Martinez batted .297 with seven home runs and 20 stolen bases in 57 games.
Martinez began in Cuba's Serie Nacional in 2012, the highest league in the country. He joined Jose Abreu, Aledmys Diaz and Jose Iglesias as the only Cuban-born players in Major League Baseball to debut in Cuba at age 16.
Martinez appeared in nearly 300 games during his five seasons in the league, compiling a .293/.393/.430 slash line. In his final season in 2016-17 with Guantanamo and Camaguey, Martinez combined to bat .333/.469/.498 with six home runs and 24 stolen bases in 61 games. Martinez also had 52 walks with just 30 strikeouts during the season.
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.