Results tagged ‘ J.D. Martinez ’

‘Cat Watch: J.D. debuts

Outfielder J.D. Martinez joined the Houston Astros at around 5 p.m. central time on Saturday, officially reaching the major league team. It didn’t take long for Martinez to see some action: he pinch-hit for reliever Aneury Rodriguez in the bottom of the eighth inning, stepping to the plate for his first big-league at-bat.

Martinez took the first pitch for a strike and then swung at a low fastball, driving it deep to center field. The ball short-hopped the fence off the warning track two panels to the right of the 400-foot mark in dead center, going for a stand-up double that scored Humberto Quintero from first base.

(VIDEO: Watch Martinez double in his first big-league at-bat)

ValleyCats manager Stubby Clapp was Martinez’s hitting coach at two stops on his way up the minor-league ladder – at Rookie-League Greeneville in 2009 and at Low-A Lexington in 2010. He was not surprised to hear how Martinez debuted.

“That’s baseball as usual for him,” Clapp said. “That’s what he does – he hits. I’m very happy for him, he’s worked hard to get to that point and I hope that he has a solid career.”

Martinez, who played for the ValleyCats in 2009 and led the New York-Penn League in hitting, was called up to replace another former Tri-City player, Hunter Pence. When the outfielder batted for the first time, he became the 23rd former ValleyCat to reach the big leagues.

“It was definitely exciting,” Martinez told “You go up there to the plate and my mind was just, ‘Hit something hard. Don’t embarrass yourself.’”

Clapp spoke glowingly of Martinez’s drive and work ethic.

“He’s a consummate professional,” Clapp said. “He’s teachable. When you get a player that will come to you and ask their own questions, that’s special. Sometimes players are scared to ask questions, but J.D.’s not scared – no matter how small the question is, he’s going to come ask it.”

Martinez made his first career start this afternoon, drawing a walk in four plate appearances.

Kevin Whitaker


‘Cat Watch: Martinez continues to mash

In the second of three installments, ‘Cat Watch takes a look at some former Tri-City players who have reached the upper levels of the minor leagues.

Few expected the former 20th-round draft pick to make a major impact in the pros, but J.D. Martinez just keeps hitting. The outfielder destroyed Greeneville pitching in 19 games and earned a promotion to Tri-City in his rookie season, where he led the New York-Penn League with a .326 batting average. He crushed the Sally League for three months in 2010, hitting .362 with 15 homers, and still hit above .300 as the first member of his draft class in Double A.

The Astros’ 2010 Minor League Player of the Year is back at it again in 2011, hitting .328 and slugging an even .500 in his second time through the Texas League. Martinez leads Corpus Christi with 32 RBIs and has been remarkably patient, drawing 21 walks in 37 games. As a roughly average corner outfielder, Martinez may not contribute much defensive value, but he won’t need to if he continues to hit this well.

Another successful member of the 2009 ValleyCats is also in his second stint at Corpus Christi. Lefty Dallas Keuchel was called up to Double A after 120 strong innings at high-A Lancaster. He went 2-6 with a 4.70 ERA in the Texas League last season but has had much more success in 2011, posting a 3.04 ERA through nine starts. Keuchel’s strikeout rate has dropped significantly – he’s fanned less than one batter every two innings – but he has also been stingy with hits and free passes.

Venezuelan second baseman Jose Altuve had a fantastic start to the season, hitting .408 at Lancaster and earning a promotion to Double A this week. The diminutive Altuve – listed at anywhere from 5’5” to 5’7” – went three-for-four in his first game at Corpus Christi, homering and driving in three runs.

Center fielder T.J. Steele has been plagued by injuries in each of his first two full pro seasons. Twice drafted by the Astros – unsigned out of high school in 2005 but selected again in ’08 – the outfielder is in his second season at Corpus Christi after being sidelined for the second half of 2010. Steele has struggled to replicate the success he had at Lancaster in 2009, posting a .264 on-base percentage over a full season’s worth of at-bats over the past two years.

Koby Clemens moved up the organizational ladder to AAA Oklahoma City this season, six years after making a brief appearance in Troy. The first baseman is hitting a pedestrian .254 with some power, including six homers and 10 doubles.

After an early promotion to the Pacific Coast League in 2010, J.B. Shuck is back with Oklahoma City this year. He has continued his low-power ways, with a .311 slugging percentage – just six ticks lower than his mark from last year – but is batting a respectable .265 while drawing a walk every eight plate appearances.

Kevin Whitaker

Reinforcements Have Arrived

Words almost cannot express how excited Kevin Whitaker was
when the Astros selected Austin Wates in the third round, 90th
overall, in this year’s draft. I was sitting next to him during our live chat
and he was astonished, to say the least, when he realized that Wates had fallen
that far. Kevin and I had watched film and studied most of the top talents that
were available to the Astros (and occasionally watched some Bryce Harper
footage just for the wow factor), and
Wates was considered one of the top college bats in the entire draft. And
Houston got him at 90! He will arrive here in Troy tomorrow afternoon.

In Keith Law’s draft-day chat, Kevin asked him if he liked
the Wates signing:

Love it. Teams doubt his ultimate position
– no real evidence he can play CF beyond his speed, and he doesn’t look great
out there in practice. But at 90, you have to take a chance on that swing and
plate discipline”.

Did the Astros just draft another J.D. Martinez and get one of the
biggest steals of the draft? Possibly. has been studying and watching Wates for years
and they have been a fan for a long time. John Klima, a contributing writer for
Baseball Beginnings, had this to say about the former Hokie:

I loved Virginia Tech outfielder Austin Wates when I saw
him on the Cape in 2009. For my money, I want guys who give me more than one
tool. Obviously they have to hit, but I want guys who can help the club win in
more ways that one”.

There’s that “love” word again. Seems like Keith Law isn’t the only
one that thinks the Astros might have gotten one of the best players in the
draft. Wates is a four-tool player. He has above-average speed, great plate
discipline, can hit to the gaps, should hit for average, has great range, and
has an average to above-average arm. What is there not to like? Here’s the rest
of the Baseball Beginnings scouting report on Wates (numbers are based on an
80-point system, with 80 being the highest and 20 being the lowest):

Austin Wates 

: Average height, lean, long and loose athletic
frame, loose hands and wrists, much physical projection in front of him.

: Above-average speed, good first step out of the box, graceful and
controlled runner. Good hands, line-drive approach, modest power, should have
gap-to-gap ability. Average arm, good accuracy. Rangy defensive outfielder, can
play all three OF positions.

: Doesn’t have one glaring tool weakness.

: Excellent all-around OF prospect with above-average speed,
athleticism and hitting ability. Lack of well above-average power shouldn’t
dissuade a team from giving him an opportunity. 


Hit – 40/60

Power – 35/60?

Run – 70/70?

Arm – 50/50?

Field – 50/60

Overall Future Potential – 60

So he has no glaring weaknesses? Sign me up and put him out on the field ASAP.
The talk amongst Kevin and I put him in left field, giving the ValleyCats an
outfield of Wates (LF), Adamson (CF), and Bailey (RF) for the playoff push. Add
Wates to an offense that is raking the ball in August (seventh in overall
batting average at .256, third overall in RBI with 67, and first in both
categories in the Stedler Division), and you have a team that, combined with
excellent pitching, could make a serious run in the playoffs.

Did the Astros draft a better version of J.D. Martinez (Wates is
better defensively and has a lot better speed)? Only time will tell.
But if Wates comes as advertised, the Astros could have a phenomenal outfield
for the future with J.D. in left and Wates in right.

Evan Valenti

Roster Move; Martinez mashes

Sunday Update: Outfielder Renzo Tello has also been promoted to Lexington. Tello went 2-for-4 and scored a run last night at Staten Island.

Today, I enjoyed an afternoon away from civilization, playing a round of golf (and actually playing quite well, by my extremely low standards). It wasn’t until I got back home later in the evening that I learned of the transaction that would send shockwaves throughout the baseball world.

What? Oh, right, there was that one too. But Houston made a roster move that hit a bit closer to home, promoting pitcher Brenden Stines and assigning Ryan McCurdy to the ValleyCats.

McCurdy will bolster the Tri-City catching depth, as the third true backstop on the roster behind Ben Heath and Buck Afenir. Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Duke Univeristy, McCurdy was originally assigned to Greeneville, where he recieved only seven at-bats.

The catcher joins former teammate Michael Ness on the ValleyCats, another Duke alum in his rookie year of professional baseball. As a senior this year, McCurdy batted .280 for the Blue Devils. He has never hit for much power – he only managed seven extra-base hits in his final collegiate season, all doubles – but he ranked second on the team among starters with a .407 on-base percentage. McCurdy spent his senior year behind the plate but also played third base, shortstop and second base as an underclassman.

We will miss Stines and his famous ‘stache, and hope he performs well at Lexington. The righty began his pro career at Tri-City last year, posting a 4.93 ERA in 24 appearances. As one of a handful of veterans on this season’s roster, Stines allowed a fair amount of hits but gave up only four earned runs and fanned seven hitters in 7.1 innings.

Speaking of Lexington, another Tri-City alum had a terrific night on Thursday for the Legends. Lexington lost, but that certainly wasn’t the fault of hot-hitting outfielder J.D. Martinez, who went 5-for-5 with two homers and a career-high six RBI. Martinez, who led the NY-Penn League in batting last season, currently tops the Sally League in all three rate categories at .355/.422/.572.

The current ‘Cats are back on track. They lost a pair of ugly games against Batavia earlier this week but were well-served by a day off, as they’ve recovered to win two straight against Staten Island (who came into the series on an eight-game winning streak). On Thursday, they rolled to a 9-2 victory behind two hits apiece from Heath, Ben Orloff and Tyler Burnett; tonight, Tri-City won its first extra-inning contest of the season, 3-2, on Adam Bailey’s 11th-inning single that scored Dan Adamson.

Kevin Whitaker

Who Will The Astros Select?

Let’s be honest, any professional sports draft can be a crapshoot. Who knows what you are really drafting? Sure, you could have the next Stephen Strasburg on your hands, but with every Strasburg, there is a Matt Bush. Ever heard of him? He was the first overall selection by the San Diego Padres in 2004. A shortstop fresh out of Mission Bay High School in San Diego, Bush was signed to a $3.1 million signing bonus and was said to be the top high school talent in the draft.

“Bush has one of the best arms I’ve ever scouted,” said Bill “Chief” Gayton, the Padres’ director of scouting. “He’s a player who’s a local talent that you rarely get an opportunity to bring into your system.”

Gayton continued, “He’s a player we’ve watched for several years now and we project him to perform at a high level once he reaches the Majors.”

Here’s the scouting report on Bush:


Sounds like a guy you would want, no? The next coming of Nomar Garciaparra? Sign me up.

Here’s the problem: Bush has not made it out of Class-A ball. In three seasons in the Padres system, Bush never hit above .270. He’s now in the Tampa Bay system as a pitcher. This is the first overall pick we’re talking about here. J.D. Martinez, former ValleyCat outfielder, was the 611th pick of the draft last year. He is currently hitting .351 in 52 games for the Lexington Legends. How did so many people pass on J.D.? It just proves that the draft can be hit or miss.

No one on planet Earth knows what the Astros are going to do, except for Drayton McLane (owner of the Astros) and Ed Wade (Astros GM), and even that’s in question. With the draft less than a week away, here’s who I think the Astros will pick with their two first round picks:

“With the eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft, the Astros select…”

Michael Choice, OF, Texas Arlington
Choice is a nice pick here. He is one of the top outfield bats in the entire draft and has raw power to all fields. Scouts have some questions about his mechanics, but most think that they are definitely fixable. He plays the outfield well. If Zack Cox, third baseman out of Arkansas, falls to the ‘Stros at number eight, I would be shocked if they passed on him. Cox is considered to be one of the best, if not the best, all around bats in the entire draft.

“With the 19th overall selection in the 2010 draft, the Astros select…”

Delino DeShields Jr., 2B/OF, Norcross High School
The front office staff here is very excited about the possibility of DeShields landing in Troy. His greatest tool is his speed. This kid has some wheels (go to and watch him run, you’ll be amazed). Some scouts think he has the arm and range to play center field, but others think second base suits him just fine. Oh and did I mention that his father played in the Majors? Delino DeShields had an average 12-year Major League career, but most think his son will be better. If Stetson Allie falls to 19, the Astros should take him. Allie, a senior at St. Edward High School, is a dynamic pitcher with two plus pitches. His fastball registers in the mid-to-upper 90’s (according to legend he has touched triple digits) and his slider tends to fool a lot of hitters. He has some control issues and some scouts question his stamina, but all agree the upside on Allie is tremendous.

Make sure you follow my live draft chat room here on Cats Corner on June 7, 8, and 9. I will be breaking down every pick the Astros make and will try to answer as many questions as I can. The draft starts Monday, June 7 at 7 p.m. EST.

Evan Valenti