Astros prospect J.D. Martinez, who was selected by Houston out of Nova Southeastern University in the 20th round (611th overall) of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, has exceeded expectations during his first two professional seasons en route to being named the club’s 2010 Minor League Player of the Year.
The 23-year-old Martinez hit a combined .341 with 18 homers, 89 RBI and 40 doubles last season at Class A Lexington and Double-A Corpus Christi.
His performance at Lexington earned him the South Atlantic League’s MVP Award, as well as Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star nominations.
He led the South Atlantic League in batting average (.362), on-base percentage (.433) and slugging percentage (.598), and also ranked second in home runs (15) and RBI (64) at the time of his promotion to Corpus Christi in July.
Based on his accomplishments, it came as little surprise when Baseball America ranked him as the Astros’ No. 6 overall prospect for 2011.
Martinez continues to turn heads in the Astros’ front office, which landed him a non-roster invitation to Major League camp this spring.
“I’m very excited,” Martinez said. “I’m always working hard to get better. Whatever it is, offense or defense, and all the physical and mental aspects of the game, you can always get better.”
He blasted his first home run of Grapefruit League action in Houston’s 7-2 loss against the New York Mets Wednesday afternoon at Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and is currenty hitting .214 (3-for-14) with two RBI and two runs scored in five games.
Astros manager Brad Mills has kept a close eye on Martinez and finds himself impressed with the youngster’s studious plate discipline.
“He’s just getting used to being here for the first time and seeing pitches,” Mills said. “He’s had some quality at-bats, but I think the progression he’s made from seeing those pitches is evident. Here’s a guy that is very studious about his at-bats. He takes into account what the pitchers are throwing, what the pitchers are throwing other guys and what the pitchers throw him in certain at-bats.
“You saw him jump on that first-pitch fastball for the home run. He has that potential. When you put that type of mindset together with the type of talent he has, there is a lot of nice things there.”
Martinez, who has played at four different levels since being drafted in 2009, describes himself as hungry, coachable and willing to work hard in order to move up and play Major League Baseball one day.
“I haven’t hit my plateau yet,” Martinez said. “The sky’s the limit. I’m eager to learn. I’ve had great coaches in the minors and I want to continue making an impression on the Houston Astros.”
Although organization’s invest top dollar into high draft picks, Martinez is living proof that a lower-round selection can excel and climb the minor league ladder.
Astros assistant general manager/director of scouting Bobby Heck credits the organization’s area scouts for doing a great job of discovering and evaluating potential sleepers late in the Draft.
“As you get into those lower draft picks, the testament goes to the area scout,” Heck said. “At that point, you get deeper into the Draft and we’re not cross-checking them. It’s us breaking down film, if we have it. A lot of times, it’s through reports and listening to our scouts about their conviction and gut instinct about guys lower in the Draft.
“That’s what happened with J.D. Martinez. The fact that he was a 20th-round pick in 2009 and now he’s in Major League camp, that is pretty astounding.”
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