Martinez, a standout now with the Tigers, hit .332 with a .942 OPS in nearly 1,300 at bats spread across various minor league levels. He was a certified prospect based on those numbers. Grossman, who is off to a hot start after being picked up by the Twins, has more than 2,800 at bats in the minors with a batting average of .271 and an OPS of .771. Different players, different situations.
Where we can find an interesting parallel, aside from both of them being corner outfielders now for American League Central teams, is the symmetry in how both were groomed by Houston, given a pretty decent shot to make it while still pretty young … and then unceremoniously dumped by the Astros.
Martinez racked up 975 plate appearances in parts of three seasons with Houston from 2011-13, hitting .251 with a.687 OPS — decent numbers for a hitter making adjustments, but still quite pedestrian. In the spring of 2014, Houston released him. Detroit snatched him up, and he’s been a mainstay in the Tigers’ lineup pretty much ever since — hitting .292 with power and an .884 OPS in close to 1,300 plate appearances with Detroit. He was 26 when he was released by the Astros.
Grossman got 764 plate appearances with the Astros from 2013-15, though only 54 of them came as he sputtered in 2015. Overall there, he hit .240 with a .668 OPS. He was released by Houston last offseason, signed by Cleveland, released by the Indians on May 16, grabbed by the Twins on the same day, and he’s been a great find so far — hitting .315 with a 1.046 OPS in a small sample size with Minnesota. He, too, was 26 when he was released by the Astros.
The larger point: Houston clearly gave up too soon on Martinez. A lot of players take 1,000 plate appearances to really find their way in the majors, and he was oh-so-close to that magic mark when the Astros dumped him. He’s developed into the type of hitter his minor league track record suggested.
Is it possible, then, that they did the same with Grossman? I get the feeling that a lot of Twins fans see him as a scrap-heap pickup who is riding a hot streak and will eventually fade. That could happen, but we also need to consider the fact that maybe the Twins made a shrewd pickup and that Grossman — who, like Martinez was in 2014, is nearing that 1,000 major league plate appearance threshold — could have value beyond just the short-term.
He never hit for a ton of power in the minors, so that aspect of his game (.589 slugging with the Twins thanks to four homers and eight doubles in just 73 at bats) figures to fade. But he’s always been a great on-base guy (.379 career in the minors, despite that .271 average). If that skill set continues to translate in the majors (he’s taken 19 walks in 92 Twins plate appearances), the Twins could do far worse than to have a switch-hitting corner outfielder with the ability to get on base and hit with a little pop on their roster.
As Martinez has already proven, sometimes all a player needs is another chance with a little experience behind him to turn a corner.