Jose Martinez isn't currently on the radar of any major colleges. He's headed for a college baseball scholarship at Harford Community College -- a community college baseball powerhouse -- and isn't likely to be drafted in the MLB draft in the coming weeks.
That he has so far eluded more significant attention is absolutely remarkable, because statistically Martinez is one of the best high school hitters you will ever encounter. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, in the 2012 season, the Pemberton (N.J.) High catcher is batting .733, and last year he hit .745.
Yes, you read that correctly. Nearly eight out of every 10 times Martinez comes to the plate and a pitcher actually delivers an offering he can swing at, he gets a hit. In fact, he's so good that his biggest problem so far in 2012 has been finding pitchers who will even offer up anything he could conceive of swinging at.
In 2011, Martinez received 23 walks, a school record and an astounding number for any high school season. It isn't tough to decipher that most of those free passes were intentional, too. In 2012, the slugger is on pace to trot to first even more times, with 12 walks with well more than half the campaign to go.
The catcher's stats at the plate are so impressive it's difficult to find anyone in baseball at any level to compare him with. According to the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations, Martinez's current batting average would rank 10th all time, and would be the first entrant on the top-10 national list since 2000. Because he was walked so many times as a junior, Martinez can't qualify for the combined two-year "career" batting average designation, or else his combined marks over 2011 and 2012 would be the best of all time.
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Still, Martinez's coach, Tom Achey, said that other coaches had raised doubts about the star's performance. In fact, the coach even had to launch a valiant defense of his hitter just to land him on the Burlington County League's all-star team in 2011 because of doubts about the competition Martinez was racking up stats against.
"I walked in the coaches' all-star meeting last year, and the other coaches didn't want to believe his stats," Achey told the Inquirer. "I said, 'I fully understand.' So we took out his stats against out-of-conference teams, and he still was hitting .610 in the Liberty Division. He's that good of a hitter."
While time will tell if Martinez can ever deliver the goods at the major-league level like some past high school phenoms -- Manny Ramirez at New York (N.Y.) George Washington High in Manhattan's Washington Heights comes to mind -- his coach is absolutely convinced he has a spectacularly rare gift of talent when he has a bat in his hand.
"The other day, we were playing RV [Rancocas Valley]," Achey said. "They were throwing him a lot of off-speed stuff in the dirt, nothing to hit. They finally throw him a fastball that was a few inches outside, and he ropes it down the right-field line. [RV coach] Dave Hower comes up to me after the game and says, 'I don't know how he does it.'
"He's only 17, and he doesn't have any wear and tear on him because he's only been catching since his freshman year," Achey said. "He's got a cannon for an arm. He's going places."
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