The Rangers have agreed to sign 21-year-old Cuban center fielder Julio Pablo Martinez for the remaining $2.8 million in their international bonus pool.
Martinez, eligible to officially sign today, becomes the No. 60 prospect on the Baseball America Top 100, two spots behind White Sox center fielder Luis Robert and one ahead of Blue Jays center fielder Anthony Alford. Martinez slots in as the No. 3 prospect in the Rangers’ farm system, behind outfielders Willie Calhoun (No. 36) and Leody Taveras (No. 51).
A lefty who is around 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, Martinez has been a standout prospect in Cuba since he was a teenager, showing a promising blend of athleticism, speed, power and performance at a premium position.
During his final season in Cuba, Martinez batted .333/.469/.498 in 264 plate appearances and stole 24 bases in 29 attempts. He walked (52) more than he struck out (30), though that had more to do with the decline in the quality of Cuba’s Serie Nacional than his plate discipline. Martinez’s performance does come with a higher swing-and-miss rate, but it’s manageable and he’s a good low-ball hitter with strong legs, quick wrists and good bat speed to generate power.
Based on present ability, Martinez could go to a high Class A or Double-A affiliate. The Rangers recently have been more conservative with their initial assignments for Cuban players, starting Andy Ibanez and Yanio Perez at low Class A Hickory, though Luis Yander La O did open at high Class A Down East.
Once Martinez receives his signing bonus, he will have to write a check payable to Major League Baseball for $100,000. The commissioner’s office informed Martinez that his fine was due to him providing the league with “sworn declarations that contained incomplete and inaccurate information regarding time you had spent in the United States and Canada.”
Martinez told Baseball America that he made a mistake when trying to remember specific dates of his time in those countries last year, and that he did not intentionally try to mislead MLB.