Stop Worrying about Francis Martes

This all started with this snippet of a post on Reddit:

Martes is next level struggling so far this year

Deciding to do a little research, I quickly found quotes like this:

The big right-hander had been touted during spring training as someone who could help the big-league club in 2017, but there’s little reason to believe that will be the case now.

The article included other negative language. With all due respect to the Rotowire staff, this is the type of the sky is falling attitude that fantasy baseball players should be jumping all over.

Story time:

In my deep dynasty league (28 teams and complexity only exceeded by the real thing), Martes is one of my last remaining prospects after a couple years chasing playoffs/championships. Successful on both fronts last year, thank you!

Last year, I debated on moving Martes several times but his value started in the basement and only gradually inched forward.

End Story

Take a look at his 2016 stats during his first 6 appearances / just under 22 innings. And all games after that.

First 21 2/3 innings17 strikeouts16 walks1.06 K/BB
Last 103 2/3 innings114 strikeouts31 walks3.67 K/BB

The innings breakdown is not arbitrarily selected. Martes, thus far, has thrown 19 innings at AAA. His first time at the level. Just as last year was his first full season at AA.

Francis Martes is only 21 years old. Roughly 4% of all AAA players are 21 years old or younger.

Now let’s add Martes’ 2017 stats to compare to 2016:

2016 First 21 2/3 innings17 strikeouts16 walks1.06 K/BB
2016 Last 103 2/3 innings114 strikeouts31 walks3.67 K/BB
2017 First 19 innings20 strikeouts19 walks1.05 K/BB

Martes is performing a worse in BB% this year, but other than that, his 2017 beginning is pretty similar to his 2016. Now, I am no fortune teller. So, I cannot tell you what the remainder of 2017 will look like.

But, I say:  STOP WORRYING ABOUT FRANCIS MARTES.

  • Do not sell Francis Martes now. If you must trade him, then insist on a valuation that reflects pre-season value. Instead, I hope you do not own him right now and set a goal of acquiring him from a scared/frustrated owner over the next week.
  • Do not expect the Astros to sell Martes low in a deal to help the MLB team. They may indeed trade Martes, but it will be as a centerpiece. Not as a broken player.

I watched his most recent two starts. I am no professional scout. I am barely an amateur one. But here are my thoughts:

  • Martes has gotten BABIP’ed to death (hitters’ current BABIP against is .407), especially in his most recent outing. In one sequence, Oklahoma City:
    • Doubled on a barely fare hit off a good pitch (borderline strike on lower outside part of plate).
    • Singled off a solid groundball hit through a gap (poor choice to throw home advanced runner)
    • A “broken bat flare” that blooped just out of reach of the infield to score the second run.
  • Martes is struggling to find his groove, as evidenced by the BB rate. As the 2016/2017 comparison shows, this is not a new thing for him. I have not watched games from 2016 yet, but in three 2017 games, I did see a pitcher that could use better pitch selection. He
    • failed to challenge hitters at times, instead choosing to dance around the corners that ultimately lead to walks
    • lacked consistent command of his breaking pitches. Sometimes, they were works of art and others they would miss clearly and never stood a chance at enticing a swing
    • needed better timing on when to throw the breaking pitch. Batters know he’s throwing balls. They had too easy of a time laying off 3-1 breaking pitches in the dirt (occurred on at least 2 of his last 8 walks).

But, again, remember that he is 21 years old playing at AAA. He is still developing as a pitcher. He has tools to succeed and I believe he will progress this season just as he did last year the more acclimated he became to the league. The PCL league, by the way, is notorious for being a hitter’s league. So, we may have to cut him slack on the ERA but not the walk rate.  Our own Brandon Lute didn’t rank him #1 on the Prospects1500 Houston Astros Top 50 Prospects list without careful consideration.

And if you don’t want to trust me (I mean, no faults there), then pay attention to Jeff Luhnow.

GM Jeff Luhnow has expressed confidence that Martes will contribute on the parent team this year. Either in a starting or relief role. That’s some serious confidence in a player who is clearly younger than his current level and would be much younger than the average MLB rookie.

Especially for one who is next level struggling.

 

Article featured image of Francis Martes – courtesy chron.com/Karen Warren, Houston Chronicle

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