José Martínez (martijo08)
José Alberto Martínez
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 7", Weight 210 lb.
Martínez was signed by Chicago White Sox scout Amador Arias initially; his father had played for the White Sox. He hit .278/.384/.405 for the 2006 VSL Orioles/White Sox. In the Venezuelan Winter League, he was 1 for 4 for his hometown Tiburones de La Guaira. With the Bristol Sox in 2007, he batted .282/.348/.437 with 7 homers in 65 games. He tied for 7th in the Appalachian League in homers and tied Mark Dolenc for 10th in RBI. He was 1 for 5 with a walk for the 2007-2008 Tiburones.
He started 2008 with the Kannapolis Intimidators, hitting .306/.359/.382 in 39 games. He had a severe knee injury that sidelined him for over a year; he had a meniscus transplant in 2009 and would become the first player to return to the baseball field after such a surgical procedure. He split the summer of 2010 between Bristol (9 for 22, 2B, HR, 2 BB) and the Winston-Salem Dash (.242/.295/.347 in 61 G). In 2011, he played for the Dash (.314/.344/.422 in 80 G) and the Birmingham Barons (.295/.344/.385 in 53 G). Among White Sox farmhands, he was second to Tyler Kuhn in hits.
Cafecito returned to the Tiburones for the first time in four winters and hit .283/.331/.346 in 2011-2012. He hit .323/.362/.492 in the LVBP semifinals but was only 4 for 22 in the finals. With the 2012 Barons, he produced at a .248/.315/.321 clip and had 10 outfield assists. In the winter, he hit .275/.315/.353 for La Guaira. A free agent that off-season, he signed with the Atlanta Braves. In 2013, he hit .285/.342/.371 for the Mississippi Braves and had 11 assists. He was 5th in the Southern League in average, between Dan Black and Rubi Silva.
He had an off-winter for the 2013-2014 Tiburones (.231/.306/.369). In 2014, he began the summer in independent ball with the Rockford Aviators and did well enough (.337/.388/.481 in 28 G) to win a return to the Braves organization. With the Lynchburg Hillcats, he hit .319/.375/.444 over 66 games. Had he qualified, he would have led the Carolina League in average (batting champ Tony Renda hit .307).
In the winter of 2014-2015, he fared better: .305/.357/.463, 30 R, 30 RBI in 57 G. He was 12th in the LVBP in average, right behind his outfield mate and brother Teodoro. For the summer of 2015, he signed with the Kansas City Royals. He was explosive for the Omaha Storm Chasers (.384/.461/.563 in 98 G) and had a rehab stint with the AZL Royals (.333/.353/.467 in 17 PA). He won the 2015 PCL batting title (.029 over Jesus Montero), led in OBP (.035 over Domingo Santana), was 3rd in slugging (.010 behind #1 Santana) and led in OPS (25 over Santana, obviously). He was left off the PCL All-Star outfield, perhaps due to his somewhat limited playing time, as Santana, Alex Dickerson and Peter O'Brien got picked. He had the best average in the PCL since Gene Woodling in 1948. He was picked for Baseball America's Triple-A All-Star team. He did not get called up to the World Series-bound Royals for the stretch run, however.
José batted .317/.369/.465 with 17 doubles in 60 games for the 2015-2016 Tiburones. He was 9th in the Venezuelan League in slugging (between Hernan Pérez and Alex Romero), tied Maikol Gonzalez for 4th in runs (33), was second to Félix Pérez in doubles (3 shy of the lead), was 6th in RBI (35), tied Jose Castillo for 3rd in hits (73) and just missed the top 10 in OPS. He picked it up a notch further in the 2016 Caribbean Series, when he reinforced the Tigres de Aragua. He hit .480/.500/.800 with 7 runs and 7 RBI in six games. In the opener, his two-run triple off Adalberto Flores gave Aragua all its offense in a 2-1 win over the Santurce Crabbers. He was 4 for 5 with 3 runs and 4 RBI against Santurce in the semifinals, falling a double shy of the cycle; his brother Teodoro added the double that day. He led the Series in average (.022 over Dariel Álvarez), runs (tied with Esteban Quiroz), hits (12, 1 over Álvarez), triples (2), total bases (20, 2 over Neftali Soto), slugging (.050 over Soto) and OPS (127 over Soto). He also tied for second in homers (1), tied for second in RBI (even with Sebastián Valle, one behind Yuniesky Betancourt) and tied Yulieski Gourriel for 3rd in OBP. For his dominating turn, he was named All-Star left fielder and more importantly Caribbean Series MVP. The last MVP from a losing team had been Erubiel Durazo in 2001 and the last Venezuelan MVP had been Francisco Butto in 2009.
Martinez began 2016 back in Omaha and hit .298/.356/.433 in 37 games. He was then dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals for cash. He batted .269/.326/.415 in 87 contests for the Memphis Redbirds. In his 11th season as a pro, he got the call to the majors as a September addition. He made his MLB debut as a pinch-hitter for Zach Duke, with a 6-5 deficit in the 7th against the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 6th. Facing Felipe Rivero, he grounded out to third.
Martinez was named the National League Rookie of the Month for September, 2017 when he hit .345 with 4 homers and 18 RBIs. That year, he hit .309 in 106 games, with 14 homers and 46 RBIs, good for an OPS+ of 134. He split his time between first base, left field and right field. Since he was already 28 by that point, his solid rookie season could easily have been a flash in the pan, but he was just as good in his sophomore year, 2018, when he played 152 games and hit .305 with 30 doubles, 17 homers and 83 RBIs. His OPS+ was 124, justifying his receiving plenty of playing time, even though he did not have a set position. He saw most of his action at first base (84 games) and in right field (46). However, with the acquisition of 1B Paul Goldschmidt in a trade prior to the 2019 season, that eliminated his best position, and that year he played largely in right field (75 games) where his defence was a liability. His hitting fell off, with a .269 average, 10 homers and 42 RBIs in 128 games, for an OPS+ of 97, and was very similar to the production of his main rival, Dexter Fowler, who played 150 games with an OPS+ of 98. Martinez did much better in the first half, when he batted .285 with 8 homers, but slowed down noticeably after the All-Star break and saw his playing time reduced significantly as a result. The Cardinals made the postseason for the first time since 2015 that season, winning the division title and Jose was one of the team's best hitters in the postseason, going 7 for 13 (.538) in 7 games in the NLDS and NLCS.
On January 9, 2020, Martinez was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays alongside Randy Arozarena in return for two prospects, Matthew Liberatore and Edgardo Rodriguez; the two teams also swapped picks in the Compensation Rounds of the 2020 amateur draft in the trade. The Rays were looking to install Martinez at DH. However, he never really fit in with the team in 2020 as the Rays were playing excellent baseball by using their position players as interchangeable parts, slotting them in and out of the starting line-up at various positions according to the situation. Martinez's lack of defensive value was a handicap and he hit just .239 in 24 games, with 4 doubles and 2 homers as he saw time at DH and first base. On August 30th, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs for future considerations, moving from one division-leading team to another.
- Mike Petriello: "The best hitter you know nothing about: Cardinals' Martinez hit .309/.379/.518 as rookie in 2017", mlb.com, January 23, 2018. 
- Andrew Simon: "Jose Martinez offers rare skills at the plate: Talented hitter remains in St. Louis despite numerous trade rumors", mlb.com, January 15, 2019.