Houston Astros Prospect Profile: Francis Martes
To build a quality minor league system you will need to have breakout prospects. They can’t all be #1 overall picks or top prospects traded for. Sometimes they come from guys who were added on to the back end of bigger trades. This is the case with Astros right handed pitching prospect Francis Martes. On July 31st, 2014, the Houston Astros trade Jarred Cosart (along with Enrique Hernandez and Austin Wates) to the Marlins for Colin Moran, Jake Marisnick, a supplemental pick, and an unknown right handed pitcher named Francis Martes.
At the time, Astros fans were a little disappointed with the trade. Cosart was a local kid, growing up in the Houston area, and was supposed to be one of the prospects that brought the Astros back into relevance. Fast forward a year and a half and this trade is looking like an absolute steal. We won’t get into Moran, Marisnick, or the pick (Daz Cameron). Francis Martes by himself has made this deal look great.
Francis Martes was signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic. He got his start with Miami in 2013 pitching in the Dominican Summer League where he posted a 3.04 ERA in 50.1 innings. In 2014, he had the chance to pitch stateside in the GCL as an 18 year old. He posted a decent line of 4.09 ERA with 45 SO in 44 IP. The Astros saw enough though that they want him included in the deal.
Francis Martes came over to the Astros system and pitched 11 innings for the GCL Astros where he posted a 0.82 ERA with 12 strikeouts. Coming into 2015, Francis Martes was still a bit of an unknown for Astros fan. Most heard about the potential he had but not many expected him to do what he did in 2015.
Martes started the season in extended spring training before being assigned to the Quad Cities River Bandits and making his first start on May 19th. Just being in full season ball as a 19 year old was impressive, but Martes was just getting started. He ended up pitching in 10 games for QC posting a line of 0.82 ERA, 52 IP, 33 H, 13 BB, 45 SO. This was enough to earn him a promotion to High-A Lancaster.
There Martes continued his domination. Martes pitched in 35 innings for Lancaster putting together a 4-1 record with a 2.31 ERA and 37 strikeouts. At this point he was gaining a ton of steam. The Astros decided to give him one more challenge for the 2015 season, a promotion to AA Corpus Christi. A 19 year old, in AA Corpus Christi is almost unheard of. Martes was 5.4 years younger than the average player in AA. He only pitched in 14.2 innings in AA with 16 strikeouts and a 4.91 ERA. All in all, the 19 year Martes made it from EST to AA in one season of baseball.
Fastball – Coming into 2015 Martes was known to have a fastball in the low-90s. Martes added velocity over the off-season and was sitting comfortably 95-97 MPH with his fastball. What makes the fastball special though is that is has a lot of late movement which makes it very difficult for hitters to square up.
Curveball – A scout I talked to during the season said that this was the pitch that improved the most for Martes. This power curve is thrown with elite velocity between the 82-84 MPH range. This curve features a ton of late break and Martes does a great job throwing it for strikes and as a chase pitch.
Changeup – While his third pitch isn’t as formidable as the fastball and curve, the changeup is still an effective pitch for him. The chanegup sits between 88-89 MPH and plays well off the fastball. It features average drive with the occasional fade at it’s best (Chipman).
Put these pitches together with exceptional command and control for a 19 year old, and the Astros are looking at a potential ace if everything works out. Not bad for a guy who was somewhat of an afterthought in a trade. This season caused Martes to jump up the prospect rankings coming in as high as the #20 prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America.
While Martes may have been an unknown prior to 2015, he is definitely well known now. With another good season from him he could be pushing for a potential call-up at just 20 years old. This is how you build deep farm systems.
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**Photo Credit: Richard Guill**
Chipman, J. (2015) Astros Power Arm Martes Emerges