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J.D. Martinez

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Julio Daniel Martinez

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[edit] Biographical Information

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 gave the first signs that something was up by regularly putting on a tremendous display in batting practice, then 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. The career re-birth was not an accident; it was the result of Martinez completely rebuilding his swing after the the 2013 season, in order to have his bat stay in the hitting zone much longer than it had been until then. On his own, he had studied tapes of top hitters like Cabrera and Albert Pujols minutely in order to figure what in their approach was differentiating them from him. The changes allowed him to unleash the latent power that was always there.

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. he was named to play in the All-Star Game for the first time and continued hitting well all year, even after the Tigers collapsed in the second half. He ended up with a .283 average in 158 games, with 33 doubles, 38 homers and 102 RBIs. His OPS+ was 140, a bit down from 2014, but still excellent. After the season, he was named a winner of the Silver Slugger Award as one of the American League's three best-hitting outfielders and the Tigers signed him to a two-year contract worth $18.5 million, confirming his new-found status as one of the majors' elite players. He was off to another strong start in 2016, having hit 12 homers and driven in 39 runs in 65 games, when he broke his elbow in a game against the Kansas City Royals on June 16th. The injury happened as he crashed into the wall while chasing a ball into the right field corner; it looked rather innocuous at first, but x-rays revealed a fracture, putting J.D. on the disabled list for an extended period. On August 3rd, he celebrated his return to action by homering off Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox while pinch-hitting for James McCann in the 8th inning. The solo shot gave Detroit a 2-1 win.

[edit] Notable Achievements

[edit] Further Reading

  • Richard Justice: "J.D. Martinez, Tigers proving perfect fit",, February 9, 2016. [1]

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