The Astros are bringing up their top prospect to reinforce their bullpen.
BA correspondent Jake Kaplan reported Thursday the Astros have recalled 21-year-old righthander Francis Martes from Triple-A Fresno. Martes, BA’s No. 17 prospect, went 0-2, 5.29 in eight starts with Fresno and will pitch out of the bullpen, at least initially.
Martes is the Astros’ No. 1 prospect and the No. 2 righthanded pitching prospect in baseball.
Few pitching prospects can match Martes’ raw stuff. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Dominican fires a four-seam fastball that sits 93-97 mph and touches 100. He can move his fastball all around the zone and gets plenty of swings and misses on it even without a lot of movement. Martes also possesses a hard, downer curveball at 85-87 mph that scouts grade as one of the best breaking pitches in the minors. The pitch has true 12-to-6 break but comes in at slider speed, making it one of the most unhittable breaking balls around. Martes also flashes a firm plus changeup with late drop but is inconsistent with it, and he has experimented with a cutter to throw against lefthanded hitters.
Where Martes has trouble is with his control. He has increasingly struggled to throw strikes as he has moved up into the high minors, culminating in 28 walks in 32.1 innings this season. Martes spins out of his delivery at times, and even when going well there are times he misses wildly out of the strike zone. Against polished Triple-A hitters who have seen velocity without control before, Martes has lasted more than five innings only once in eight starts and has allowed a .299 opponent average with a 2.10 WHIP.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Martes profiled as a power-armed reliever for much of the early part of his career, and in that role he might be best primed to excel with two plus-plus pitches in his fastball and curveball. His bouts of wildness will be key to watch, and in turn will determine just how effective he can be at the major league level and in what role.