To look back on the Cardinals’ selections from the 2016 MLB draft, one would be suppressed to find a draftee that made more of a splash in his first professional months than catcher Jeremy Martinez.
The Chicago Cubs drafted Martinez in the 37th round of the 2013 draft out of high school, but the backstop opted to follow through with his verbal commitment to Southern California University, and it panned out well; the 22-year-old was chosen in the fourth round — just 136th overall — by St. Louis last June, and he had little trouble settling into the professional scene.
Upon signing with the Cardinals, Martinez joined the State College Spikes and played in 57 games through the end of the year. While with the Spikes, the right-handed-hitting Martinez performed to a 157 wRC+ with 32 walks and only half as many punchouts through 235 plate appearances, contrubuting to his recognition at the New York-Penn League All-Star Game.
Of his 63 total hits, seventeen went for extra bases, including fourteen doubles, two triples, and one home run, giving Martinez a solid .406 wOBA through the small, yet notable sample size.
For further context, here’s an excerpt of a Bleacher Report write-up from 2013:
Martinez has tinkered with his swing since college (since high school, really), and the red baron did a splendid job of breaking down and grading that last fall. All in all, the adjustments he made led him to being a more contact-focused hitter rather than a power-oriented guy. And, with that in mind, the power is still there; Martinez’s fourteen two-baggers ranked second among Cardinals minor-league catchers, trailing only Brian O’Keefe of the Peoria Chiefs, who cranked out 25 doubles in 101 contests.
“[Martinez] works the whole field,” said Spikes manager Johnny Rodriguez in a Centre Daily Times article last August. “He doesn’t do too much with it. He knows when to turn, when to go the other way. He sets up the pitcher. It’s the same way he catches.”
Along with his sheer ability in the batter’s box, Martinez can shine behind the plate as well. Across 400 innings of squatting, Martinez maintained a stellar caught-stealing rate of 46 percent in nearly 40 attempts. Perhaps there’s correlation between Martinez’s defensive traits and his admiration for current Cardinals catcher and eight-time Gold Glove-winner Yadier Molina.
The two will have a chance to work a little bit this spring.
Martinez was one of 25 non-roster players invited to Spring Training by the Cardinals and is due to report to camp no later than February 14, a week from Tuesday. Molina will be absent for the majority of the exhibition season as he plays in the World Baseball Classic, but Martinez will get to pick his pocket a bit before he departs to play for Puerto Rico. And with Molina gone, Martinez — along with Carson Kelly and five other non-roster invitees who catch — may find his way into one of the club’s 34 games this spring.