1.) What do you expect of Frances Martes?
Once a top prospect, not only in the MLB but peaking in the top 15-20 of all prospects in baseball, Martes has had a fall from grace. Between injuries and suspension, there’s been quite a bit of lost time but one has to wonder if there’s any spark left and if he could potentially regain his #2 potential that was once touted by all the scouting reports.
“1) Francis Martes, RHP, Grade B+: Age 21, Dominican right-hander acquired from Marlins in Jarred Cosart trade; 3.30 ERA in 125 innings in Double-A with 131/47 K/BB, just 104 hits; fastball up to 99 and consistently at 94-95; has developed a plus curveball to go with it; change-up still inconsistent but has progressed well enough to project him as a starter; control is fine for a young power arm with this kind of stuff although command within zone still needs a bit of work; needs time in Triple-A but has upside of a number two starter.” - John Sickels of Minorleagueball.com
The story of Martes’s acquisition is well told. The effects of the deal are obviously still resonating atop Houston’s prospect list, but perhaps more significant is the way that deal changed the way complex-level ball is scouted. Since Martes was unearthed in the GCL, more and more scouts are being assigned to rookie ball in Florida and Arizona. Some clubs have scout(s) here every year, others tailor their coverage based on where they are on the competitive spectrum, with rebuilding clubs more likely to have scouts here than ones who, if they make a trade, are hunting big leaguers instead of teenage lottery tickets. So while Martes has a chance to make a significant impact on an Astros club poised to compete for their division and, maybe, a World Series, the ripples through the industry created by his acquisition are arguably more significant. Okay, on to Martes as a prospect…
Martes is a rare talent with sneaky athleticism for a pitcher with his build. He was 94-98 for me in the AFL, a 70 fastball on pure velo but docked a grade due to a lack of movement. (It was touched up in my AFL looks.) He shows feel for commanding it to both sides of the plate in bursts but still has rashes of erratic control. He varies the shape of his power curveball, which has hard, late break, depending on situation/location. Once his command of it is fully realized (something I’m betting on because, again, we’re talking about a good athlete), I think it’s going to be a dominant, plus-plus pitch. The changeup flashes and once Martes’s fastball command improves a bit, I think the changeup development will follow shortly after it, as he’ll find himself in changeup-friendly counts more often and should be able to develop that pitch.
As if his pure stuff weren’t enough, Martes has started weaving some old-man tricks into the fabric of his repertoire. He’s been quick-pitching hitters this spring and altering the pace of his delivery to mess with hitters’ timing. He conservatively projects as a plus big-league starter. If that fastball starts moving, though, and plays at its velo, he could be more than that.” - Fangraphs top prospects 2017
2.) Does Lance McCullers return to the rotation?
This is a tough topic as I’m a big McCullers fan, but one has to start wondering if his future is in the bullpen instead of the rotation. With the Greinke/Sanchez rotation, the Astros rotation suddenly looks far more solid (especially with the hopeful Whitley addition next year). The most McCullers has ever pitched in a single season is 128 IP, and obviously will be returning from Tommy John Surgery next season. .
3.) Who would you re-sign?
The Astros are obviously going to face some personnel challenges and are surely going to be over the competitive balance threshold with the Greinke acquisition, so let us know who you’d choose of our pending Free Agents and why. Let us know if there’s other Free Agents that the Astros should be targeting.
Cole - 14-5, 2.87 ERA, 2.83 xFIP, 12.98 K/9, 2.24 BB/9
Miley - 11-4, 3.11 ERA, 4.45 xFIP, 7.43 K/9, 3.05 BB/9
Harris - 3-1, 1.76 ERA, 3.24 xFIP, 8.41 K/9, 2.15 BB/9
Maldonado - .210/.282/.346, 7 HR, 64 wRC+ 0.1 WAR
Chirinos - .229/.345/.417, 13 HR , 107 wRC+, 1.3 WAR
McHugh - 3-5, 5.14 ERA, 4.20 xFIP, 9.88 K/9, 3.42 BB/9
Smith - 0-0, 1.80 ERA, 3.32 xFIP, 7.20 K/9, 0.90 BB/9
Rondon - 3-2, 3.72 ERA, 4.94 xFIP, 7.04 K/9, 3.33 BB/9