Marlins right fielder Mike Stanton is the undisputed star of the 15-8 Jacksonville Suns, but he's not the only one who is earning some attention.
Last September, Jacksonville shortstop Osvaldo Martinez's career could have ended. Now just six months later, he's having the best start of his career. Martinez has always been considered a defensive specialist, but a .341/.425/.396 average may force everyone to reassess the 21-year-old's potential.
Back home in Puerto Rico last fall, Martinez was shot three times (once in the head, once in the ribs and once in the back) when he became caught in the cross-fire of a drug-related shootout (Martinez was an innocent bystander). Amazingly Martinez was ready to play when spring training began without missing a beat. He did come into spring training with a new nickname—Iron Man—in recognition of his amazing recovery.
Martinez isn't just proving to be a medical miracle, he's also proving to be a very intriguing shortstop prospect. Coming into the season, Martinez was known as a good glove with some issues at the plate. Because of his lack of power, Martinez's best role is as a leadoff man or two-hole hitter, but he'd never hit for enough average or drawn enough walks to really suit that role. Through 2009, Martinez's career stats of .260/.321/.337 seemed to be pegged to that of a defensive replacement who would hit low in the batting order.
This year he's worked out a very symbiotic relationship with Stanton. Because pitchers don't want to face Stanton, Martinez, the team's No. 2 hitter, gets challenged. And because he's getting on base, Stanton, the Southern League leader with 26 RBIs, has had plenty of chances to drive him in.
A change to where Martinez holds his hands in his stance has helped. He has excellent hand-eye coordination and now that he's quieted his hands to develop a more repeatable swing, he's fouling off pitcher's pitches and working counts to draw walks and sting some nice line drives.
"The mechanical adjustment has freed up his hands," Jacksonville manager Tim Leiper said. "With two strikes now he can foul a lot of pitches off. The change in a year has been remarkable. Defensively he was outstanding last year. But the biggest thing was his bat. Now he's not giving away at-bats."