Martinez working to force Toronto's hand with Triple-A pop

May 23rd, 2024

This story was excerpted from Keegan Matheson’s Blue Jays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

TORONTO -- is doing exactly what he’s supposed to do.

The Blue Jays’ No. 2 prospect (No. 70 overall, per MLB Pipeline) doesn’t need to be the savior right now. This team needs to save itself, and if Martinez is ready to be part of that at any point in 2024, call it a success story for the 22-year-old.

Martinez has posted nearly identical Triple-A numbers to last year, with an .844 OPS and 11 home runs, and cut his strikeout rate, which is an encouraging step. His approach had led to some peaks and valleys in recent years, particularly when those strikeouts spike, so the Blue Jays have been extremely encouraged by his consistency above all else. Sure, the power numbers pop, but baseball is spilling over with prospects who can hit a baseball 450 feet or throw one 101 mph. Doing it over and over again is what turns a prospect into a big leaguer.

His bat is still so tempting, though, especially with the Blue Jays sitting near the bottom of the league in almost all major offensive categories. The gap between Triple-A pitching and the big leagues has never been wider, but at a certain point, that can’t matter. Prospects need to make the jump eventually.

So … why hasn’t that happened yet?

“It’s a combination of where he would play here, him learning to play second at a level that would be average to above-average and the benefit of player development in that time for a 22-year-old,” said general manager Ross Atkins. “Those three things are what are keeping him in Triple-A at this point.”

Fair enough. Martinez is a full-time second baseman now and to call that a “work in progress” would be kind. He’s not the most natural defender at that position by any means, but with a bat like his, he doesn’t need to win a Gold Glove Award. It’s about making the simple plays and not booting too many balls around in between. With 11 errors in 29 starts at the position this season, he’s still developing.

There’s also the question of whose roster spot he would take. At this point, it would still take an injury for the Blue Jays to dip into their prospect depth, where Addison Barger (No. 6) and Spencer Horwitz (No. 16) would also be considered. The Blue Jays have already shown a willingness to bring each of those players up on a part-time basis, leaving Martinez to develop for a more permanent opportunity.

That won’t last forever, of course. If this team doesn’t turn things around in the next two months, we could see all three of those players on this roster down the stretch. Cavan Biggio has struggled since his nice start to the season. Justin Turner has, too, and is on a one-year deal. There will be opportunities here eventually, so many of which line up with Martinez directly.

Martinez’s time will come. The past couple of weeks have brought more clarity, though, and it sounds like this organization will wait until a regular gig opens up -- or the Trade Deadline -- for that moment. When it comes, you’ll see a hitter whose raw power rivals Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s.

Double-A New Hampshire
Alan Roden, the Blue Jays’ No. 7 prospect and top outfielder on the list, only has a .359 on-base percentage. Yes, “only”, because Roden posted a .430 mark across two levels last season and has one of the best plate approaches in the system. He’ll be just fine in that regard.

The exciting part? Roden has hit six home runs in 35 games. If he projects as a 10-homer bat in the big leagues, then he projects as a role player. If he can raise that ceiling to 20, you can start to see a fringe MLB starter in a corner spot.

High-A Vancouver
Outfielder Jace Bohrofen (No. 22) owns an .869 OPS and has far more power than his two homers suggest. Pair that with a .439 on-base percentage and you’re looking at a prospect to be one of the most productive hitters in this system. He should reach Double-A this summer and his power potential is needed in this system.

Single-A Dunedin
Keep an eye on outfielder Yhoangel Aponte (No. 25). He’s a good candidate to get stronger as the season rolls on and he’s already off to a fine start with a .757 OPS, three home runs and nine stolen bases. In a system starved for upside, Aponte brings it. He’s still just 20 years old and dripping with potential.