The St. Louis Cardinals need Carlos Martinez to return to form in 2021. So far, he looked good in his first start in the Dominican Winter League on Friday.
Carlos Martinez finished a rough 2020 season with an oblique strain which, combined with a bad case of COVID-19, limited him to just 20 innings on the season. Heading into 2021, the St. Louis Cardinals aren’t penciling the righty into their rotation yet unlike previous years.
In what will be the final guaranteed season of his contract, Martinez is going to have to prove that he is worthy of a pay raise heading into 2022 to keep his current contract. Right now, I would say there is a very small chance that Martinez’s option for 2022 is picked up no matter what he does in 2021, but even then he has to prove he’s worthy of a contract from another team as well.
Like many other players that didn’t get enough action in 2020, Martinez decided to play in the Liga de Beisbol Dominicano (LIDOM) or more simply just the Dominican Winter League. This is the first offseason that I have ever followed this league, and it has been a ton of fun to watch. There aren’t fans in the stands, but it is super interesting to attempt to understand the announcer’s Spanish and to see the mix of players.
There are more than a few players in the Cardinals’ system that are participating in this specific winter league, including Angel Rondon, Genesis Cabrera, Julio Rodriguez, and Edmundo Sosa, among others. The majority of the Cardinals’ participants are on the Aguilas Cibaenas (along with former Cardinal Rangel Ravelo) and that is the team that Martinez made his winter debut with.
Along with the young prospects trying to show their worth, there is also a mix of older players who may have had some major league time or who are a bit older. For example, the 15-year veteran of the MLB Melky Cabrera plays for the Aguilas as well as former Cardinal backup Francisco Pena and Braves utility man Johan Camargo.
Back to Martinez, his debut with the Aguilas went pretty well. Over 3.1 innings, Martinez gave up seven hits, while striking out four and allowing just one earned run.
To be clear, this isn’t all big-league talent, but Martinez was facing a team (the Leones del Escogido, which translates to the Chosen Lions which is easily the coolest name) whose lineup included MLB regulars such as Franchy Cordero, Gregory Polanco, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Seven hits in less than four innings aren’t great but in watching the start, it was refreshing to see Martinez leave the game with zero walks. Martinez was attacking hitters with his fastball early in the count and then whipping his slider once he was ahead. About 40 seconds into the video above, Martinez threw one slider that made a very good hitter (Vlad Jr.) look very bad at the plate.
This was just one start for Martinez in a league that is essentially the minor leagues. However, this is all we have to judge Martinez on at the moment, and it was a great sign to see his gameplan and control are much better signs than anything else.
While the COVID-19-shortened 30-game regular season schedule is done for this year, this league was a ton of fun to watch after the 2020 MLB season didn’t scratch the baseball itch. Next year, I would urge anyone interested to buy the DRsports.tv package to watch in very good quality.
The upper brass of the St. Louis Cardinals definitely knows about this performance, but it’ll be interesting to see if the team is still trying to get another team to take on his $11.7M contract for 2021.
I have no clue if Martinez will get another start with the Aguilas this winter, but one good start under his belt is at least some sort of positive. For now, I will leave you with this electric strikeout to end a game from Genesis Cabrera, also from the Dominican Winter League.