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MLB Arizona Diamondbacks

Fernando Martinez: The Mania That Never Was

For Houston Astros fans, AAA outfielder Fernando Martinez is mostly an unknown. For New York Mets fans, he once represented so much more.

When I was younger I had never really gotten into sports much. My father had always tried to make me play baseball or football and when that didn’t pan out, he attempted to push him teams onto me. After awhile of not having much interest, it was around 2004 and 2005 that I really started to pay attention on my own accord. I still hadn’t gotten into it or even fully understanded it until I was a 15-year-old high school sophomore and soon-to-be junior. That was the 2006 Mets season. We all know how that turned out. Through the years of playoff hopes and prospect busts–Lastings Milledge sure comes to mind–the one “super prospect” that I had always heard about was Fernando Martinez, otherwise known as F-Mart. This was the first time that I had experienced the sensation that there was a big-time prospect that represented the future of the franchise on the horizon.

It would be a few years before anyone not covering the team would get a real good look at Martinez, but one year I was finally able to see him play in Spring Training with the team and there was almost a buzz in the air, a rare atmosphere for March baseball. In 2009 the day finally came, Mets super prospect Fernando Martinez was making his debut at the age of 20. While the 2009 season was a lost one for New York, this appeared to be a moment that Mets fans would remember for a very long time. Yet, after three years of chronic injuries, F-Mart is no longer property of the New York Mets.

While he showed some flashes with a great catch here or an RBI hit there, Martinez never seemed to look locked in. That said, he was 20 years old and playing in the big leagues, it was just expected that he was going through some growing pains. F-Mart finished the 2009 season batting .176 with 1 HR and 8 RBI in 29 games. The next season he appeared in just 7 major league games, hitting .167 with 0 HR and 2 RBI. The trend of little playing time and smaller results continued in 2011 when Martinez played in 11 games with a .227 batting average with 1 HR and 2 RBI. Once being recalled back to AAA that season, Mets fans would never see him play again. Fernando would finish the 2011 AAA season once again playing an injury shortened season–63 games–hitting .260 with 8 HR and 30 RBI.

Things just never seemed to work out for Martinez in his tenure with the Mets. The biggest concern was always his health, as he never completed a full season at the minor league level. I, among others, believed–or at least hoped–that eventually, he was bound to stay healthy and when he did, no one would be able to stop him. But it just didn’t work out that way. Not only was it disappointing for me personally but it is a cautionary tale for all young ballplayers about someone who had unlimited potential and just could not put it together no matter what he did. It truly is one of the saddest things that I have experienced during my years watching and writing about sports.

When the New York Mets decided to place the one-time star-in-the-making, it was Houston that decided to claim him, forever ending any hopes that he would be able to stay healthy, put it all together and finally produce at the level everyone thought he was capable of in New York. Unfortunately, some prospects don’t pan out.

In 57 minor league games with the Astros this season, Martinez has hit .340 with 8 HR and 40 RBI. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance for him to start anew, albeit without nearly the same hype he once received in New York.

Follow me on Twitter, @richmacleod.