Monday, August 24, 2015

Who the hell is Francis Martes?

So maybe you haven't really been paying attention to the minors this year because Astros County is of course the only Astros blog you ever read (which would be silly) and we haven't really been covering the minors as closely as we have in the past because! hope! success! job changes! less time!

Whatever the reason, maybe you saw Astros Twitter get excited today because of the promotion of one Francis Martes, from Lancaster to Corpus. And maybe you didn't know about this Francis Martes. So allow us to do a little backtracking and fill you in a little on Francis Martes. (See how I SEO? Blawg like a bawse).

Martes is a 6'1" 225lb (like Dre, pure chocolate) RHP out of the Dominican Republic who won't turn 20 until late November. That's nice. He somehow came over to the Astros in the Jarred Cosart trade that included Kiké Hernandez and Austin Wates to the Marlins for Colin Moran, Jake Marisnick, and the pick in the 2015 draft that became Daz Cameron. This projects to be Trade Seppuku.

Martes was the unknown. He barely registered in the deal (that originally involved - though to what extent we don't know - Dallas Keuchel) that was completed less than 45 seconds before the trade deadline in 2014. In the linked article Martes didn't even get a mention beyond being included in the first paragraph as part of the deal.

A few days after the trade, and we as a staff were able to process it, Masked Marvel included Martes first "only because I know absolutely nothing about him." After looking at some of the basic dashboard stats, the Marvel wrote that Martes "screams lottery ticket, and the Astros may not know what they have with him for three or four years." This is a perfectly fine assessment. Because why would you jump to any sort of conclusion after Martes put up a 5.18 ERA/1.49 WHIP, allowing 29H/19ER, 33K:20BB in 33IP in the GCL...albeit with Martes 2.4 years younger than the average GCL player.

Then Martes came to the Astros' GCL team, and over his next 11IP allowed 5H/1ER, 12K:3BB in 11IP. So that was nice. Then 2015 happened.

In his first start for Low-A Quad Cities he allowed 2H/1ER, 5K:3BB in 4IP. Meh, right? In his next outing, on May 25, he allowed 5H/2R (0ER), 4K:2BB in 5IP. He allowed 0H/0ER, 2K:0BB in four relief IP on May 30. Pretty good, huh? Over his next seven outings, he threw 39IP in Quad Cities, he allowed 26H/5ER, 34K:8BB. This includes two starts of nine and ten strikeouts in 6IP. Francis Martes was three years younger than the average Midwest League player. Since there wasn't much of anything left to prove in Low-A, the Astros moved him up to the Cal League to see if his stuff could handle Coors Light (what I like to call "Lancaster" and the "Cal League.")

At Lancaster, Martes made his first start against Stockton and struck out nine batters in 5.2IP, but allowed 6H/4ER. Okay, kid's 19. In his next outing, he made a 3IP relief appearance, allowing 5H/3ER, 3K:1BB. Okay, kid's still learning. Then he rattled off four starts - two in Lancaster, two on the road - where he threw 26.1IP, allowing just 20H/2ER, 25K:5BB.

As a reminder, Francis Martes is 19 - 4.1 years younger than the average Cal League player. Of the 345 plate appearances batters have made against Martes, 334 of them have come against older hitters. Righty hitters have a .497 OPS-against, lefty hitters have a .539 OPS-against, and he has allowed one homer to a batter from each side of the plate.

There's a reason MLB.com placed Martes 8th in their Top 30 prospect list, saying "he has made a huge leap forward in 2015, creating hopes that he can become a frontline starter." His fastball sits 93-95, and "touches 98," with a plus curveball and a work-in-progress changeup (all evaluation courtesy of MLB.com). I don't have anything to add to that, having literally never seen him pitch - and you know how I feel about projecting players, never mind projecting players I've never seen pitch before.

So Martes will be 19 pitching in Corpus for the rest of the season. He'll be five years younger than the average player in the Texas League. If you want to project when he'll impact the Astros, my bet is late 2016, but my goodness, what a steal in a trade that was already leaning towards Houston.

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