MLB.com Columnist

Jesse Sanchez

Cuban OF draws comps to Andruw Jones

At 20, coveted center fielder Martinez demonstrates vast 2-way potential

Cuban OF draws comps to Andruw Jones

The latest top prospect from Cuba has two first names and one lofty scouting comparison.

It's still up in the air if outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez is the second coming of former All-Star outfielder Andruw Jones,as some scouts have said. What's certain is that Martinez has been the center of attention in the international scouting community since he became eligible this month.

"I'm feeling really good right now, and I'm in great shape," Martinez said in Spanish from the Dominican Republic, where he is training. "I'm working hard to get to my goal to play in the Major Leagues. That's what I have always wanted to do."

The 20-year-old center fielder, who enters MLB.com's Top 30 International Prospect Rankings in the No. 1 spot, left Cuba in November and established residency in Haiti in February. He has been training in the Dominican Republic for the last few months and was declared a free agent by Major League Baseball two weeks ago.

It's unclear if the 6-foot-2, 195-pound outfielder, who played two seasons for Las Tunas in Cuba's Serie Nacional, will sign during the current international signing period or wait until the next period that begins on July 2.

The Cubs, Yankees, Angels, Blue Jays, Nationals, Rockies, Tigers, Dodgers, Giants and White Sox are among the teams that have already expressed interest in Martinez, according to industry sources. But when Martinez signs truly matters.

The Angels, D-backs, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees are in the maximum penalty for the current 2014-15 international signing period and won't be able to sign any pool-eligible players for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods, starting July 2. Martinez is expected to command much more than a $300,000 bonus.

In the meantime, the outfielder has private workouts scheduled for the next two weeks and played last week in the International Prospect League.

"I feel like I have been showing what I can do, and scouts are seeing that," Martinez said. "It's up to the team that signs me to start me where they want, and I'll do what they want. When they say it's time for me to play in the Major Leagues, that's when I will go. I just want to do the right thing and get there as fast as I can."

Scouts like Martinez's solid and compact frame, along with his athleticism. He has impressed evaluators with his quick and compact power stroke in the batter's box. He's shown the potential to work counts and hit home runs to all fields during recent showcases and games.

Additionally, Martinez has been described as speedy out of the box. He has shown base-stealing potential and instincts, a valued quality for players making the transition from Cuba's top league to professional baseball in the United States. He's aggressive -- some describe him as "hard-nosed" -- and not afraid to take an extra base.

On defense, he has shown good instincts and an ability to cover the gaps in the outfield. Those skills, combined with a playable and accurate arm, lead scouts to believe he will stay in center field, and that he could be in the big leagues after just a couple of seasons in the Minor Leagues.

It's impossible to tell if Martinez will be the next Jones, as has been suggested. The 10-time Gold Glove center fielder made his big league debut at age 19 and was a World Series hero as a teenager. He played 17 years in the Major Leagues and two more years in Japan.

Scouts do like that Martinez has experience playing for Cuba's junior national teams in Mexico and Venezuela. How fast that experience and skill set transfer to professional baseball in the United States is another question.

"People say I remind them of Andruw Jones, and I'm flattered. I admire him and what he did," Martinez said. "But Mike Trout is my favorite player. He's good on offense and defense. He always has his uniform dirty, and he's really aggressive in all parts of his game. I like to play that style."

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.