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J.D. Martinez

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Julio Daniel Martinez

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Lean, lanky and extremely powerful, J.D. Martinez is reminiscent of former Detroit Tigers and American League star slugger Rocky Colavito, emerging during the 2015 season as one of baseball's most feared hitters. Martinez was selected by the Houston Astros in the 20th round of the 2009 amateur draft. He was signed by scout Greg Brown and made his pro debut that summer and hit .342 with 12 home runs in 72 games between the Greeneville Astros and the Tri-City ValleyCats. He hit .314 with 18 homers between the Lexington Legends and the Corpus Christi Hooks in 2010 and was named South Atlantic League MVP.

He began 2011 back with the Hooks and hit .338 with 13 home runs through his first 88 games. Recalled by the Astros that summer after they traded All-Star right fielder Hunter Pence at the trading deadline, he made his debut as a pinch hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers on July 30th and collected a double and an RBI. He hit his first career home run on August 3rd off Dontrelle Willis of the Cincinnati Reds and added a two-run double in the 5-4 win as he began to make his presence felt in the Astros' line-up. He hit .274 with six homers and 35 RBIs in 53 games, playing regularly for the remainder of the season.

On April 13, 2012, the Miami, FL native became the first player to homer at the Miami Marlins' new ballpark, Marlins Park; he hit an 8th-inning two-run shot off Edward Mujica. He was leading the Astros with 54 RBI when he was sent down to AAA Oklahoma City on August 9th. The team was playing extremely poorly, and the front office explained that J.D.'s swing had not been quite right since starting the year on a three-week hot streak; they took advantage of his having a minor league option remaining to have him work out in the minors before coming back to Houston in September. Martinez explained that he agreed with the move: "I felt like I started off good and went through kind of a struggle and hit a plateau and never got hot again," he said. "The confidence was always there. It was never boosted back up again." He was hitting .235 with 11 homers and a team-leading 87 strikeouts at the time of his demotion. He came back to play a few more games for Houston, ending at .241 with the 11 homers and 55 RBIs. He had another disappointing season in 2013, when he hit .250 with 7 homers and 36 RBIs in 86 games. With a number of slugging outfielders knocking at the major league door for Houston, back-to-back disappointing seasons meant that he was in danger of falling completely off the team's radar.

Martinez hit a low point when he was released by the Astros halfway through spring training in 2014. Yet, things turned around dramatically after that. On March 24th, he was signed by the Detroit Tigers. He began the season in the minors with the Toledo Mud Hens, where he absolutely ripped the cover off the ball. In 17 games, he hit .308 with 3 doubles, a triple and 10 homers, for a slugging percentage of .846. He scored 16 runs and drove in 22 to receive a call-up to Detroit on April 21st. This time, he did not waste his chance, as he claimed the Tigers' starting left field slot by hitting .315 with 30 doubles and 23 homers in 123 games; his OPS+ was an outstanding 151, putting him in company with the team's two offensive superstars, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. He continued to hit well in the postseason, as he went 3 for 12 with a double and two homers, driving in 5 runs, as Detroit was swept in three games by the Baltimore Orioles in the Division Series.

On June 21, 2015, he had the first multi-homer game of his career when he went deep three times in a 12-4 win over the New York Yankees. The first two shots were against Masahiro Tanaka, while the third came against reliever Danny Burawa who was making his big league debut that day. That game opened a tremendous streak during which Martinez homered 10 times in 12 games.

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