Marlins right fielder Mike Stanton is the undisputed star of the 15-8 Jacksonville Suns, but he's not the only one who is earning some attention.
Last September, Jacksonville shortstop Osvaldo Martinez's career could have ended. Now just six months later, he's having the best start of his career. Martinez has always been considered a defensive specialist, but a .341/.425/.396 average may force everyone to reassess the 21-year-old's potential.
Back home in Puerto Rico last fall, Martinez was shot three times (once in the head, once in the ribs and once in the back) when he became caught in the cross-fire of a drug-related shootout (Martinez was an innocent bystander). Amazingly Martinez was ready to play when spring training began without missing a beat. He did come into spring training with a new nickname—Iron Man—in recognition of his amazing recovery.
Martinez isn't just proving to be a medical miracle, he's also proving to be a very intriguing shortstop prospect. Coming into the season, Martinez was known as a good glove with some issues at the plate. Because of his lack of power, Martinez's best role is as a leadoff man or two-hole hitter, but he'd never hit for enough average or drawn enough walks to really suit that role. Through 2009, Martinez's career stats of .260/.321/.337 seemed to be pegged to that of a defensive replacement who would hit low in the batting order.
This year he's worked out a very symbiotic relationship with Stanton. Because pitchers don't want to face Stanton, Martinez, the team's No. 2 hitter, gets challenged. And because he's getting on base, Stanton, the Southern League leader with 26 RBIs, has had plenty of chances to drive him in.
A change to where Martinez holds his hands in his stance has helped. He has excellent hand-eye coordination and now that he's quieted his hands to develop a more repeatable swing, he's fouling off pitcher's pitches and working counts to draw walks and sting some nice line drives.
"The mechanical adjustment has freed up his hands," Jacksonville manager Tim Leiper said. "With two strikes now he can foul a lot of pitches off. The change in a year has been remarkable. Defensively he was outstanding last year. But the biggest thing was his bat. Now he's not giving away at-bats."
Stars Of The Weekend
Neftali Soto, c, high Class A Lynchburg (CIN): 8-for-13, 1 2b, 2 HR, 6 R, 6 RBIs.
Between a position switch and a broken hamate bone he suffered last December, Soto had some excuses he could cite for his slow start. But Soto put everything together this weekend with a two home run game on Saturday night as part of an excellent weekend. Soto has split time between first base, third base and catcher this season, but this weekend he got his fifth start behind the plate. As Lynchburg manager Pat Kelly explained to the Lynchburg News & Advance, Soto had been paired up with starting pitcher Matt Fairel for his first several starts because Fairel could largely call his own game, but he's showing enough development to start catching for other pitchers.
Mike Stanton, of, Double-A Jacksonville (FLA): 3-for-7, 2 HR, 3 RBIs, 5 BBs, 3 Ks, 1 SB.
Subscribers can read more about Stanton in today's Prospect Bulletin, but it's worth noting yet another standout weekend for the Marlins' top prospect. Stanton hit his 11th and 12th home runs of the season this weekend even though he gets few hittable pitches in any at-bat–his home run on Saturday was estimated to travel 415 feet. His Sunday line of 1-for-1 with 3 walks and a home run sums up Stanton at his best—he walked three times, hit a sacrifice fly and crushed another pitch for a home run. Over the last 10 games, Stanton has nine home runs and drawn 11 walks as he's raised his on-base percentage above .500 (.504).
Bobby Borchering, 3b, low Class A South Bend (ARI): 6-for-11, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 5 Rs.
Borchering, a Diamondbacks' first-round pick in 2009, didn't hit his first home run until last Wednesday, but he's hit three home runs in the past five days. The biggest news may be that two of those home runs have come from the right side. Borchering, a switch-hitter, is much more comfortable hitting from the left side.
Jose Tabata, of, Triple-A Indianapolis (PIT): 7-for-14, 6 Rs, 4 SBs.
Ever since Tabata was a teenager holding his own in the Florida State League, the knock on him has been that he doesn't hit for the power you look for in a corner outfielder. That was a concern because Tabata's body type led scouts to believe he wouldn't be able to stick in center field long term. He will have to keep watching his weight, but Tabata is doing everything he can to show he's more athletic than many believe. Tabata's line this year (.330/.391/.450) is exactly what you are looking for from a leadoff hitter, especially as he's also 12-for-13 on the basepaths.
Dan Hudson, rhp, Triple-A Charlotte (CWS): 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 Ks.
The White Sox's top pitching prospect faced few speed bumps on his way from low Class A to the majors in 2009. He came into the season as a serious candidate for the White Sox's fifth-starter's job, but he struggled to get on track after the disappointment of failing to make the big league roster. Hudson failed to make it out of the sixth inning in any of his first four starts, and his April 27th start was the worst of his pro career—he allowed eight hits and nine runs in only one inning of work.
Stephen Strasburg, rhp, Double-A Harrisburg (WAS): 4.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 Ks.
The rest of the Eastern League may have been baffled, but the Altoona Curve can say that they have Strasburg's number. The Pirates' affiliate scored four runs (only one earned) in Strasburg's pro debut and then followed it up with four more runs on Sunday. Very few of Altoona's six hits on Sunday were scorched, but they did force Strasburg to be extremely fine with his command. It is expected that this was Strasburg's last Double-A start before a promotion to Triple-A Syracuse although no official announcement has been made.
Midwest League no-hitters
The Midwest League is usually a pitchers' league, but this is still pretty remarkable. In the span of two days, the league saw three different no-hitters. On Friday night, Peoria (Cubs) righthander Nick Struck walked one (he picked him off) to face the minimum in a five-inning rain-shortened no-hitter. On that same night Cedar Rapids' Fabio Martinez, Kyle Hurst and Mike Kenney combined to no-hit Kane County. Kane County didn't lack for base runners as Martinez walked four, Hurst walked two and two more Cougars' hitters reached on errors, but the Kernels were able to work out of any trouble for the no-hitter and a 3-0 win. Then on Saturday Beloit lefthander Daniel Osterbrock flirted with a perfect game before settling for a seven-inning no-hitter in game two of a doubleheader against Wisconsin.
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