J.D. Martinez

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Julio Daniel Martinez

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Biographical Information[edit]

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. He finished the year at .307 in 120 games, with 35 doubles and 22 homers, 69 runs and 68 RBIs.

In 2017, he suffered a ligament injury in his foot during spring training, delaying his season debut by a number of weeks. He played his first game on May 12th, then the next day hit a pair of homers in a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels. He added two more long balls, including a grand slam, in a 13-11 extra-innings loss to the Baltimore Orioles on May 16th. After 57 games, he was hitting .305 with 16 homers and 39 RBIs, good for an OPS of 1.019, when on July 18th he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in return for three prospects - Sergio Alcantara, Jose King and Dawel Lugo. In his first game for the D-Backs on July 19th, however, he was hit in the hand by a pitch from Tim Adleman of the Cincinnati Reds and had to leave the game, although later x-rays did not indicate any fracture. He quickly recovered and on July 25-26, he hit three homers in two games to give the D-Backs exactly the type of production they had been looking for when they acquired him. He followed the next day with a grand slam off Luke Weaver of the St. Louis Cardinals that accounted for all of the runs in a 4-0 win. On September 4th, he became the 18th player in major league history - and the second that year after Scooter Gennett on June 6th - to have a four-homer game. It came in a 13-0 beatdown of the Los Angeles Dodgers as he hit a two-run shot off Rich Hill in the 4th, solo shots off Pedro Baez and Josh Fields in the 7th and 8th respectively, and capped the day with a two-run blast against Wilmer Font in the 9th. Even more amazing, the Dodgers had only three hits as a team... It was Arizona's 11th straight win and J.D.'s 18th homer in only 40 games since his trade to the D-Backs. On September 17th, he his his 40th homer of the year, making him just the 5th player to reach the mark while playing for more than one team. On September 24th, his 9th-inning single gave the D-Backs a 3-2 win over the Miami Marlins, clinching home field advantage for the Wild Card Game. On September 27th, he tied Ralph Kiner's National League record for most homers in the month of September, set in 1949, when he hit number 16 in the 9th inning of a 4-3 win over the San Francisco Giants. He was named the National League Player of the Month for September, after finishing the month at .404 with 16 homers and 36 RBIs and 26 runs scored. His overall numbers in 119 games between the two teams were a .303 average, 45 homers and 104 RBIs, to go along with a slugging percentage of .690, the highest in the majors that year. He went 0 for 4 in the Wild Card Game against the Colorado Rockies, but 4 for 11 (.364) with a homer as the D-Backs were swept by the Dodgers in the NLDS.

Martinez became a free agent after the 2017 season, and given his superlative numbers that year, there was some expectation that there would be a bidding war for his services, but it wasn't the case. The entire free agent market was slow, with only second-tier players finding a home during the normal signing period in November and December. While there were rumors of interest in Martinez's services, he was left in the lurch until spring training had opened in mid-February. On February 19, 2018 it was the Boston Red Sox who finally bit. It was not a surprise, as they had been known to be interested from the beginning, but negotiations had obviously been a lot harder than anticipated. The contract was for five years and $110 million, with the possibility for J.D. of opting out after the second or third year. It was expected that the Red Sox would slot him in the designated hitter spot, as they already had three very solid defensive outfielders on board. The deal was pending a physical exam, as is the norm, but in this case the formality took longer than usual, as the deal was only finally confirmed on February 26th. With his belated spring, Martinez started the year a bit slowly, as he was batting just .222 with 1 homer after 10 games, but then picked up. By the end of April, he had raised his batting average to .337 and had hit 5 homers. He then slugged 13 homers in May and drove in 25 runs as the Red Sox were off to a great start, and did not let up in June, with another 7 homers and 20 ribbies. He was voted the starting DH at the All-Star Game and reached the rare total of 80 RBIs before the All-Star break. He was then named the AL Player of the Month for August when he hit .373 with 7 homers and 25 RBIs. He finished the year with an average of .330, 43 homers and 130 RBIs. That last total led all of baseball, while he was second in the majors in the other two categories, behind teammate Betts for batting average and just one short of Khris Davis's AL-leading home run total. The Red Sox then went on to win the 2018 World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he contributed exactly five hits and one homer in all three postseason series. His World Series homer came in the clinching Game 5 off Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. Given his outstanding season, it was a bit of a surprise that he wasn't among the three finalists for the 2018 American League Most Valuable Player Award, but it seemed that teammate Betts' superlative season had drained some votes from him, while more complete all-around players Mike Trout and Jose Ramirez had taken the other two spots. He did however do something unprecedented by being named the winner of the Silver Slugger Award at two different positions: DH and OF.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2010 MVP South Atlantic League Lexington Legends
  • 2-time AL All-Star (2015 & 2018)
  • 2-time AL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2015/OF & 2018/OF & DH)
  • AL Total Bases Leader (2018)
  • AL RBI Leader (2018)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 5 (2014-2018)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 3 (2015, 2017 & 2018)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 2 (2017 & 2018)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 3 (2015, 2017 & 2018)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (2018)
  • Won one World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2018

Further Reading[edit]

  • Nathalie Alonso: "Fierce passion, prep helping J.D. thrive with Sox: Slugger excelling in first year in Boston spotlight: 'I've never seen anybody prepare like him'", mlb.com October 11, 2018. [1]
  • Ian Browne: "Let's play 20 questions with J.D. Martinez!", mlb.com, April 4, 2018. [2]
  • Ian Browne: "J.D. first to win 2 Silver Sluggers in same year: Martinez earns honors at DH, OF; Betts collects second career award", mlb.com, November 8, 2018. [3]
  • Steve Gilbert: "JD-back, back, back, back! Martinez: 4 HRs: Martinez becomes first D-back and 18th Major Leaguer to reach milestone", mlb.com, September 5, 2017. [4]
  • Steve Gilbert: "Red-hot J.D. excited for WC Game's intensity: Acquired July 18, Martinez hit 29 homers in 62 games with D-backs", mlb.com, October 4, 2017. [5]
  • Richard Justice: "J.D. Martinez, Tigers proving perfect fit", mlb.com, February 9, 2016. [6]
  • Mike Lupica: "Once a castoff, J.D.'s star shining brightest", mlb.com, July 14, 2018. [7]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Paul Goldschmidt and J.D. Martinez: Powerful bromance blooms in desert for Diamondbacks", USA Today Sports, September 14, 2017. [8]

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