Edgar Martinez: Before He Was A Hall Of Famer

Image credit: Edgar Martinez (Photo by Tom DiPace)

Veteran BA contributor Tracy Ringolsby spilled more ink about Mariners prospect Edgar Martinez in the mid-to-late 1980s than any man not employed as a scout for a major league organization.

Ringolsby ranked Martinez among Seattle’s Top 10 Prospects three times, beginning with his 1985 report in which he ranked as the system’s No. 7 prospect on the heels of a strong campaign as a 21-year-old in the Midwest League.

What a difference a year made for Martinez. After being signed out of Puerto Rico in 1982, he debuted at short-season Bellingham, and there was little hope for his development. He hit a weak .173. During the offseason, however, he matured physically and came back last summer much stronger.

The 300-foot fly ball outs suddenly went 350 feet, and the ground balls in the hole went through the hole. He drove the ball and hit for average (.303) at low Class A Wausau with 32 doubles, two triples, 15 home runs and 66 RBIs.

If he continues to develop with the bat, Martinez can play third base. He has average speed, good reactions and a good arm.

The Mariners signed a 19-year-old Martinez out of Puerto ?Rico in December 1982, back when the island was not subject to the draft. By the end of 1985, Martinez had already seen 20 games at Triple-A as a 22-year-old, though he wouldn’t reach the level for good until 1987.

Martinez did nothing but hit in the Pacific Coast League in full seasons there in 1987 and 1988. He entered the 1989 season ranked as the Mariners’ No. 3 prospect behind Ken Griffey Jr. and 1986 second-round righthander Erik Hanson. By now, Martinez was 26 years old. Ringolsby has the scouting report.

One reason that (Mariners third baseman) Jim Presley’s name kept popping up in trade rumors is the development of Martinez, signed as a free agent out of Puerto Rico in 1982. After two years at Triple-A—including leading all minor leaguers with a .363 average (in 1988)—he’s got nothing to prove at any level below the big leagues.

Martinez doesn’t have the pure power of his cousin, Carmelo Martinez, but he is a pure hitter. He has a composite .342 average the last two years, achieved by driving the ball to all fields. Martinez doesn’t give pitchers any breaks. In five full professional seasons, he’s walked 410 times and struck out only 228 times.

Martinez has the soft hands of a middle infielder, the quick step of a third baseman and a solid throwing arm.   

The Mariners finally turned over third base to Martinez in 1990—when he was 27—and he promptly hit .302 with 11 home runs and 27 doubles. Injuries eventually pushed Martinez into a full-time DH role, but his bat seemed to grow more potent with age.

Martinez was one of the most accomplished hitters of the 1990s. For the decade he ranked third to only Tony Gwynn and Mike Piazza with a .322 average and third to only Frank Thomas and Barry Bonds with a .430 on-base percentage. Martinez’s park-adjusted OPS+ of 154 ranked No. 6 for the decade, behind Bonds, Mark McGwire, Thomas, Jeff Bagwell and Piazza.

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