Cleveland Indians’ September-callup Michael Martinez is no stranger to the minor leagues. The 28-year-old utility man was drafted in 2005 by the Washington Nationals, and he’s bounced around the league ever since. In 2010, the Phillies picked him up in the Rule 5 Draft, and he spent last season with Pittsburgh.
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But despite having a lengthy career, it hasn’t been a particularly stable one. In three seasons with the Phillies, he played in just 162 games with less than 400 plate appearances. He batted .187/.234/.261 there, which is actually far superior to the .128/.209/.154 line he posted in 26 at-bats with the Pirates in 2014.
Martinez will never be an every-day big leaguer, but can he be a viable utility option next season?
The answer seems to fall somewhere between “probably not” and an enthusiastic “maybe”. Martinez has never had reliable, everyday at-bats in the major leagues, which could be a major part of why his minor and major league numbers are so different.
Martinez played 102 games for the Columbus Clippers this season, batting .289/.344/.424 with the Indians’ Triple-A team. That .768 OPS was the best of his career at any level, but does it signify changes to his approach, or simply a string of good luck?
It appears to be a little of both. Martinez’s batting average on balls put in play is .332 this year. That’s higher than it was last season, but not even close to the highest in his career. He also hit five home runs, five triples and 24 doubles to give his slugging percentage a big boost – those numbers are far better than any he’s posted before. At this stage in his career, it’s possible that he’s fully developed into a bit of additional power, which is a long-term improvement that could make him just valuable enough to carry on the 25-man roster.
Martinez also swiped 11 bases for the Clippers, but he’s not exactly known for his speed. In fact, he only has four stolen bases in his entire major league career. His biggest asset is his ability to play at every position, which is something that the Indians will need next season. Both Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn are expected to move on to new teams over the winter, and while Jose Ramirez stands to make the team as a utility man, there’s still room for Martinez to make his case for the remaining utility spot.
So far this September, he’s off to a hot start. Martinez is 4-for-5 with a run and an RBI in three games. Obviously those numbers mean absolutely nothing on their own, but when added to his solid season in Columbus, Martinez looks more and more like a potential bench bat for next season. If not, he’s certainly a great depth signing to have ready in Triple-A.