Gotta say, so far I'm mostly loving what the draft looks like with Randy Flores at the helm.
With their fourth-round pick, #136 overall, the Cardinals actually went to Flores's old stomping grounds of USC to grab Jeremy Martinez, a catcher with basically average tools pretty much across the board, but whose baseball IQ and ability to control the strike zone with a bat in his hands really stand out to me.
Prior to this season, Martinez's first two years at USC were not much to write home about. He was catching consistently, which is a good sign, but offensively it just looked like the ceiling was very limited. He was one of those hitters who appeared to be almost too patient, to the point of passivity. He worked deep counts consistently, and walked more often that he struck out both his freshman and sophomore seasons, which is most definitely a rarity for both a player than young and one who plays such a premium position, but there was virtually zero power. Martinez his first two seasons in college looked a lot like a Sean Burroughs type, who was always too willing to simply wait out a pitcher and serve a weak single over an infielder's head, taking strictly what was given, rather than attacking aggressively at any point in the count.
This year, though, things really started to change for Martinez. He began attacking pitches in the zone more aggressively, and making louder, harder contact. Both his walk and strikeout rates went down this season (still more walks than strikeouts), the result of somewhat fewer deep counts, but he homered once every 35.5 at bats, which may not sound super exciting, but takes on a different context when you consider that number was one dinger per 226 at bats last year. He hit six total dingers on the season, and hit five more doubles than he did last year in 25 fewer trips to the plate.
In other words, Martinez made the kind of adjustment we've seen Matt Carpenter make in the big leagues, and the results were pretty notable.
Behind the plate, the tools are solid, but nothing spectacular. He's technically sound, and the arm works well enough, but I'm not going to say I see anything exceptional about his defense. I'm also not going to say I'm very good at evaluating catcher defense, because I'm not. Therefore, take my analysis with all the grains of salt.
I like this pick a lot. He's a grinder at the plate, in the best way possible, and has the potential to stick as a solid defender behind the plate. The only thing he really does poorly is run, which isn't shocking from a catcher. But there's real offensive upside here, in a way that should look pretty familiar to all of us if he makes it to the big leagues.