Jonathan Martinez off to strong start in Great Lakes

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Jonathan Martinez caught my eye in his solid 2012 season. There wasn’t a ton of information available, as he was signed out of Venezuela and pitched in the Arizona League, for the most part. I ranked him as my No. 49 prospect heading into the 2013 season.

He began the year with the Great Lakes Loons and got roughed up a bit, as a 19-year-old will in the Midwest League. He went back to Ogden and had some success — enough for me to rank him at No. 35 coming into this season. Now, it seems he’s finding his comfort zone.

The 20-year-old got the opening day start for the Loons in 2014 and responded with the best outing of his career: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 K. He’s coming off his longest outing of the season on Monday, when he threw seven innings of 1-run ball. On the season, he owns a 2.62 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 2.39 FIP, 7.1 H/9, 0.4 HR/9, 1.5 BB/9 and a 9.8 K/9.

The most encouraging number there is his strikeout rate, which is saying something when a pitcher has a 1.5 BB/9 rate. Martinez’s strikeout rate dipped dramatically to 4.8 per nine inning in 99 1/3 innings last season. In 2012, it was 9.0 in 68 innings. There isn’t really much to attribute it to, as Martinez’s stuff hasn’t taken a step back, as I speculated in my write-up of him for the Top 50. If anything, it’s getting better.

The right-hander has a low-90s fastball that he can sink and control. His command is among the best in the system. In fact, now that Duke von Schamann is in the Indians’ organization, Martinez and Lindsey Caughel are vying for that top spot. He also has a slider that has flashed solid-average potential and a changeup that is improving a bit.

He isn’t a physically imposing pitcher (6’1, 203 pounds), but he’s able to make his pitches do what he wants — and miss bats. And he’s having success against both lefties (.237 BAA, 13/0 K/BB) and righties (.207 BAA, 13/4 K/BB).

I’m not sure if it means much, but he’s making sure the left side of the field is getting plenty of work.

Martinez hitter heat map

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Something else to consider: Martinez has been younger than the competition in every year of his professional career. This year, he’s almost two years younger than the league-average age. That trend should stay true if he keeps pitching the way he has so far early in the 2014 season.

If he continues this success, he could find himself in Rancho Cucamonga before season’s end — especially if any of the four Quakes’ starters (Chris Anderson, Caughel, Julio Urias, Tom Windle) see Double-A this season. He could also find himself in my midseason Top 25, and, perhaps knocking on the door of the Top 10-15 prospects in the system come next year.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.