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Beginning a new series in which we identify the player who best symbolizes each team's season.
No, not the Houston Astros' best player in 2012. He would be their Most Valuable Player. This time, we're trying to spot the player -- good, bad, or ugly -- who best epitomizes the 2012 Houston Astros. And beginning today, we'll be doing this for every team all month, until we've hit all of them.
We're starting with the Astros because the Astros' season has been over longer than anyone else's season. We're starting with the Astros, and we'll finish with the team that wins the World Series.
Sure, it would be easy to pick on Brian Bogusevic or Jordan Schafer, a couple of outfielders in their 20s who probably belong in the minors (and probably always will). Or young Jordan Lyles, a high draft pick four years ago who's now got a 7-20 career record in the majors. You know, considering the Astros are going to lose nearly 110 games this season.
But that would be too easy. The Astros have been terrible, of course. But they do have some interesting young players, and they do have a front office with a pretty good plan. So instead let's talk about outfielder J.D. Martinez.
Just three years ago, Martinez was drafted out of tiny Nova Southeastern University. In the 20th round. Of course, 20th-round draft picks usually don't reach the majors at all. It took Martinez just more than two years, thanks to gaudy hitting statistics throughout his short minor-league career. In 2011, just his second full pro season, Martinez destroyed Double-A pitching and simply skipped Triple-A, reaching the majors in late July and acquitting himself well as the big club's every-day left fielder.
In fact, before that season Baseball America opined, "If Houston finds a taker for Carlos Lee's albatross contract, Martinez could provide a high-energy, low-cost replacement. He profiles as a second-division regular."
Martinez took a step backward this year, though. Despite the Astros' desperate need for a regular outfielder who could hit -- especially with Carlos Lee finally dispatched -- Martinez got demoted to Triple-A in August, and stayed there until the minor-league season ended a month later. He didn't fare well in Oklahoma City, and has continued to struggle since rejoining the Astros.
Martinez isn't terrible, and he's still young enough (25) to improve. But for the Astros to avoid being terrible in 2012, they needed some good things to happen with some of their younger players. And with the notable exception of young Jose Altuve's development, almost nothing did.
That's how you lose 110 games.