The Cardinals entered 2012 with a couple of aces-in-the-making within their minor league ranks. Both Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez were viewed as five-star-type pitching prospects, very near to the can’t-miss variety. Well, we know now that Triple-A has been quite the learning experience for Miller — his struggles have been so severe of recent that the Cards are skipping his turn in the Memphis rotation so he can work on mechanical issues. With Miller’s development reaching a lapse for the first time, St. Louis has directed its attention toward Double-A Springfield where 20-year-old Carlos Martinez is holding up his half of the hype.
Martinez began this year where he finished last year, High-A Palm Beach in the Florida State League. Upon his return to the FSL, Martinez wasted no time in proving he’d grown as a pitcher from where he left off in 2011, lowering his ERA by more than two full runs, and his WHIP by half a point. After seven starts, the Cardinals promoted him to Double-A, where it didn’t take long for Martinez to prove he belonged. Through his first three outings with Springfield, he’s posted a 2.45 ERA to go along with a 8.00 K/BB. Granted, St. Louis has been cautious with their prospect, who stands 6-0, 165. In his three starts combined, he’s pitched only 11 frames.
Martinez’s best offering is his fastball, which sits mid-to-high-90’s and occasionally touches triple-digits. He counters with a steep curve and a decent change. The curve would rate as a plus-plus pitch, but it’s been known to get a little loopy and cause problems at times. Given his smallish frame and high-effort delivery, many scouts see Martinez ending up throwing in the late innings out of the bullpen. The Cardinals’ reluctance to stretch him out reaffirms that outlook, somewhat. For now, however, he’s starting games in the high minors and he’s having little trouble doing so. 2014 seems like an accurate ETA for Martinez, perhaps sooner if he arrives in relief.
You may have noticed that I’m sort of partial to Midwest League prospects. Living in suburban Chicago allows me the wonderful opportunity to catch games at Kane County, home of the Low-A Royals. I watched the aforementioned Carlos Martinez pitch for Quad Cities a year ago, and a few weeks back, I had the opportunity to see Miguel Sano in action for Beloit. In terms of power-potential, Sano is as good as it gets. He can send balls over the wall to any part of the ballpark, and he generates that power with an effortless and consistent stroke — it’s not the kind of swing-out-of-your-shoes approach that we often see from slugging prospects.
If there’s a concern about Sano, it’s his size. He weighed in right about 6-3, 190 when he signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009. He’s now tipping the scales at close to 240 lbs. The growth has rendered him a sloppy defender — he’s already made 27 errors at 3B this year — and most see him ending up in a corner outfield post by the time he reaches the majors. Meanwhile, Sano has blasted 15 homers so far this year while hitting .240/.355/.483. At this point, it’s fair to add him to your fantasy radars. He should reach Double-A at some point in 2013, and Target Field in Minnesota the following year.