Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that the Rangers have signed Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez for $2.8 million, the remaining sum in the Rangers’ international bonus pool.
Martinez, 21, is now ranked No. 60 in Baseball America’s Top 100 and is listed at No. 3 in the Rangers’ system behind Willie Calhoun and Leody Taveras. Martinez has played professional baseball since the age of 16, spending five seasons in the Cuban National Series and his last two in the Canadian-American Association. He’s highly regarded for a combination of power, speed, and athleticism while playing one of the more valuable positions (center field).
This past season with the Trois-Rivieres Aigles in the Canadian-American Association, Martinez hit .297/.345/.449 with seven home runs, 20 RBI, 48 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases in 255 plate appearances.
Badler suggests Martinez could start his minor league career at High-A Down East or Double-A Frisco.
Bryce Harper has, in recent years, declined participation in the Home Run Derby, with his last go at it coming in 2013, losing to Yoenis Cespedes in the final round. With the All-Star Game taking place at Nationals Park in Washington, however, he has changed his mind, saying today that he will compete if he is selected for the All-Star team.
Harper is currently second in voting among National League outfielders, so he stands a pretty good chance of making it. Even if he falls off in the voting, you have to assume that the powers that be will nudge NL manager A.J. Hinch to select Harper as a reserve, partially because of his actual power — he does have 19 homers so far this year — but mostly for his star power.
Simply put, you know dang well that both Major League Baseball and the Nationals want a home town guy with big time star power in the Derby, even if he’s not having as good a year as he’s capable of. As such, figure to see Harper hitting long balls in D.C. on July 16.