He is the most recognized name in the Mets farm system. He has been at or near the top of the Mets prospects ranking virtually since he was signed in 2005. For years he has been assumed to one day fill one-third of the Mets outfield. However, his time in the big leagues has been as disappointing as it has been brief. He, of course, is Fernando Martinez.
The talent and promise that Martinez possesses have been as well documented as the injuries that have kept him off the field. All the injuries have been frustrating for Martinez, the organization, and spectators alike. However, with youth still on his side, there has been no need to overreact too much, believing that he has time to overcome his chronic injuries. After all, Jose Reyes struggled with injuries when he was young, but got past them eventually, playing every day from 2005-2008 without any problems. So perhaps that would be the road Martinez would take as well, just needing some more time for his body to get completely healthy.
But that was until last week when the Mets announced that an MRI showed that Fernando Martinez has mild arthritis in his knee. Arthritis is a condition that is unusual for someone of his age, and is something that can’t be fixed with any type of surgery or rest. This doesn’t have to be a career-ending injury for Martinez, but it is something that he will have to contend with for as long as he plays baseball and beyond, since it’s no secret that knees are a crucial part of the body for baseball players (see Carlos Beltran, 2010).
Now what does this mean for Fernando Martinez on the field? Short answer: nothing good. A guy who has never played in more than 90 games in a season, now has a condition that will never go away and can flare up at any time, especially when strain is put on it. This will make it even for harder for Martinez to play a full season, playing every day and staying healthy, which is what Martinez needs more than anything for his development. Without consistent playing time it will be that much harder for the Mets to prepare Martinez to be able to contribute at the major league level, which is obviously the ultimate goal, and now has one more obstacle standing in the way.
If Martinez is one day able to get to the major leagues, any chance of him playing centerfield will be all but gone because of a decrease in his speed that will certainly come due to his arthritis. Once relegated to a corner outfield spot, it’s unlikely that with recurring knee pain that Martinez will be able to be in the lineup on an every day basis, meaning he will only be able to make up one half of a platoon, and that’s if he can avoid stints on the disabled list. Another issue that may present itself is whether or not his swing will be affected by a permanent knee condition, perhaps decreasing the amount of power that Martinez can generate with the bat.
But even with the recent news of arthritis in the knee of Fernando Martinez, there is still no need to write him off as a prospect. The tools and the ability are still there, and he is less than a year removed from being the MVP of the Caribbean Series. However, there is a need to manage expectations for him as well as reassess his place in the organization. Martinez will no longer lay claim to one of the top spots when all the different rankings of the Mets top prospects come out, those days are over. But there’s still reason to believe that Fernando Martinez can overcome all the set backs and still become a serviceable major league player. Even with the injuries, and the pain that he will no doubt have to play through, Martinez is still loaded with talent and potential, even if he can’t be an every day impact player. He will just be a different type and different caliber of player from what we’ve been expecting from him for many years.