10:09pm: Martinez has actually already established residency in Haiti and petitioned the league for free agency, tweets MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. Certainly, that would accelerate his timeline to striking a deal with a big league club, though there could still be months until that can realistically happen. In the meantime, Martinez’s camp is set to host a showcase for MLB clubs in the month of December.
12:31pm: Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez has become the latest player to leave his home island in search of an opportunity in the majors, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. That said, it could still be some time before he has that chance.
First of all, Martinez is still just 21 years of age. Badler notes that he’s prepared for an assignment at the High-A or Double-A level, so he’s not too far from the majors, but obviously doesn’t appear to be a player that teams would see as likely to contribute in the immediate future.
Beyond that, there are still the usual hoops to jump through. Martinez will need to establish third-country residency and obtain clearance. Then, he’ll have to navigate the sometimes-choppy waters of international free agency. Since he’s subject to MLB’s international bonus restrictions, his earning power is limited. To maximize it, Badler notes, Martinez could be forced to wait until the next July 2nd period, when more organizations will be able to commit more money than is presently possible.
Martinez certainly seems to be a player worth keeping an eye on. Badler cites his power and speed combination. At least in Serie Nacional, Martinez also carried intriguing plate discipline marks. In his most recent season there, he posted a .333/.469/.498 batting line, going down on strikes thirty times while drawing a remarkable 52 walks in 264 plate appearances and posting six long balls and 24 steals. Martinez also played in the Canadian-American Association this year, where he slashed .297/.345/.449 and carried a more pedestrian 56:17 K/BB ratio over 255 plate appearances.
Though the flow of Cuban talent isn’t what it once was, and won’t command the same investments because of MLB rule changes, it remains an important factor on the market. The more advanced Yulieski Gurriel played a big role this year for the Astros, for example. His brother, Lourdes Gurriel, and well-regarded prospect Luis Robert were among those to score big contracts before the rules changed. As Badler notes, highly-touted youngsters such as Victor Mesa remain in Cuba.