Baseball America recently published their 2021 pre-season list of the top 100 prospects in baseball. There were six (!) Blue Jays on the list. The sixth prospect (BA#96) was Orelvis Martinez
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It is always interesting to look at top prospect lists like the Baseball America top-100 or Fangraphs top-100. Not because they are the final word in prospect valuation, but because they provide an objective assessment of a team’s top prospects and an unbiased ranking of those prospects relative to the overall pool. It is very easy to believe that all of your own children are above average, even though it is not possible in the aggregate.
The Baseball America list has Nate Pearson at #14, Austin Martin at #19, Jordan Groshans at #34, Simeon Woods Richardson at #69, Alejandro Kirk at #70, and Orelvis Martinez at #96. You can see our article on the overall list here, and our articles on the other five top-100 Jays will be linked to the names above.
In this article, I will discuss Orelvis.
Martinez was signed for $3.5 million out of the Dominican Republic in July 2018 as part of the 2017-18 international signing class. He was ranked as the #4 international prospect, with comparisons to Adrian Beltre at the same (16 years old) age. He played in the Gulf Coast League in 2019, where he was ranked as the #1 prospect with a .275/.352/.549 line in 40 games. The plan was for him to move to Short-season Class A (Vancouver) or possibly Low-A (Lansing) in 2020, but we all know what happened to the 2020 MiLB year. With the realignment of the minor leagues, Orelvis is likely to begin 2021 in Low-A at Dunedin.
Orelvis is still very young (he will play 2021 at age 19) but he has enormous upside.
His hit tool is already graded 60 for both hit and power by BA. He doesn’t do it with bulk (he is 6’1″ and 190 pounds) but rather with efficiency. As Baseball America puts it
Martinez does a good job incorporating his whole body into his swing. He has to keep those moving parts in sync, but generally does so to generate fast bat speed and easy plus power. He uses his hands well at the plate, driving the ball with impressive carry to all fields. Martinez makes frequent contact and has an advanced approach for his age, shrinking his lower-half movement when he gets to two strikes
The issue with Orelvis’ hit tool is (not surprising for such a young prospect) consistency. There is considerable variation in the way he uses his lower half during his swing, and that inconsistency (if not corrected) could be exploitable by the better pitching he will face as he advances through the minor leagues.
Orelvis also has a 60-grade arm and good hands, but his speed and footwork need work if he is to stay at shortstop. Many scouts project that, as he gains muscle, he will end up at third base (where he has all-star upside).
Blue Jays future
Orelvis is not projected to be mlb-ready until 2023 at the earliest, and he has not even played a full season of professional ball yet, so the question of “fit” is likely premature. With a 60-grade arm and less than blazing speed, the most logical outcomes would be shortstop, third base or right field. As things stand now, the Jays hope that those positions will be filled by Bichette – Groshans – Hernandez in 2023, but a lot can change in two years.
As a prospect, Orelvis’ upside is huge. His current top-100 ranking is based largely on promise. If he could dominate at Low-A in 2021 the same way he did in the Gulf Coast League in 2018, his ranking could skyrocket. But if he struggles, he could fall out of the top-100 discussion just as easily. As Keith Law put it in early 2020, “He’s still so young that you want to temper your enthusiasm, but he could be the Jays’ best prospect in a year”.
OM (is it too early to nickname him “the mantra?”) is an excellent example of Team Shapkins’ goal of filling the minor league pipeline with exceptional players at all levels, to ensure a constant flow of talent through the minor league system and to the majors. Orelvis is very much a work in process, but it is telling that in 2019 only 7 of the Fangraphs top-100 prospects were 19 or younger. For Orelvis to crack this list at 19 and 1 month is impressive in itself, and cause for considerable optimism.
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A Jays fan since pre-Series, Jim’s biggest baseball regret is that he did not play hooky with his buddies on 7 Apr 77. But hearing “Fanfare For The Common Man” played from a rooftop on 24 Oct 92 helped him atone.