Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Will J.D. Martinez Be A Viable Option In 2012?

It was perhaps a surprising callup that saw J.D. Martinez join the Houston Astros in 2011.  However, if anyone predicted that he was ready or not, the results were encouraging for the 24-year old:

209 At Bats
.274 Batting Average (57 Hits)
6 Home Runs
35 RBI
29 Runs
0 Stolen Bases
.319 On Base Percentage
.423 Slugging Percentage
.325 Batting Average on Balls in Play

The question is what can we expect from him in 2012.  There’s no question that the rebuilding franchise is going to continue to keep him in the lineup, but is he going to be able to improve on his 2011 success?  Is he in store for a regression?  Or is it that what we saw in 2011 is exactly the player that he is.

Having never played above Double-A, it’s hard to exactly predict.  However, I wouldn’t go drafting him expecting miracles.

He had 506 AB at Double-A between 2010 and 2011, hitting .342 with 16 HR, 97 RBI, 74 R and 3 SB.  While those are solid numbers, are they really going to blow anyone away?  How much worse do they look when you realize that the average came courtesy of a .369 BABIP?  It’s hard to get excited about the upside.

He posted a 16.8% strikeout rate at Double-A, which unsurprisingly rose to 21.2% at the Major League level.  It’s possible that he improves on ’11 mark, but he didn’t show it as the season progressed (22.8% in September).  Obviously, teams adjusted so the key will be if he can make the necessary adjustments as well.  Time will tell, but at best case scenario would be his Double-A mark.  Chances are, he’s worst than that.

The other concern is the line drive rate, which was at a lofty 27.6% in his short Major League career.  Can we really anticipate that continuing?  As that regresses, his BABIP could as well.  In other words, it sounds like he’s more of a .260-.270 hitter, as opposed to the .330+ that he showed in the minor leagues.

As for the power, nothing seemed abnormal in the Major Leagues but he also didn’t show much upside in the minors.  16 HR over 506 AB?  We are talking about a 15-20 HR hitter over a full Major League season.

Yes, if he continues to hit third in the Astros lineup (176 AB there in ’11) he is going to get the chance to drive in and score some runs, but it’s not like he’s going to be a 100/100 option.  His bat doesn’t project to that much upside, nor does the Astros likely lineup.

When you put it all together you have an option that does have potential, but there doesn’t seem like there is much there.  In shallower formats he should be considered waiver wire fodder.  In deeper leagues he’s worth rolling the dice on, but only as a low-end option.  The chances are, given the numbers, he struggles in 2012.

What are your thoughts on Martinez?  How do you see him producing in 2012?  Is he a player you want to own?

Make sure to check out all of our preliminary 2012 rankings:

Buy Low Candidates: Looking At The 10 Worst BABIP From 2011
Will A Hot September Equate To 2012 Success For Brent Morel?

One comment

  1. KD says:

    Great Article. J.D. will surprise us throughout his career. In some ways (i.e. minor numbers, size, early career opportunity) he is similar to Andre Ethier. He batting eye is better than his numbers indicate and he has good hands. In 2012 he will be a doubles machine with .260 average and 15 homeruns. In the future he will have a few seasons where he will post a .300 plus average with 25 – 30 homeruns and 90 – 100 RBIs.

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