Entering the season J.D. Martinez was viewed as one of the better sleeper outfielders. It made sense as he impressed in a 53 game audition in 2011 (.274, 6 HR, 35 RBI in 208 AB after the promotion from Double-A). Unfortunately those that put their faith in him have been sorely disappointed.
Just look at the numbers he’s posted through Monday:
234 At Bats
.235 Batting Average (55 Hits)
9 Home Runs
0 Stolen Bases
.323 On Base Percentage
.393 Slugging Percentage
.279 Batting Average on Balls in Play
What’s the difference between 2011 and 2012? The biggest issue is that Martinez simply isn’t hitting the ball with authority. Last season he posted a 27.6% line drive rate. This year he’s at a mere 16.1%. It’s not even that he’s shown signs of returning to last year’s rate, either:
- April – 16.7%
- May – 17.2%
- June – 14.3%
The line drives have moved to groundballs, as he’s posted a 51.7% groundball rate this season. That helps to explain the BABIP (he posted a .325 mark last season) and the drop of average.
There would be hope that he could maintain a viable average if he made good contact, but his 22.8% mark hardly qualifies. While there’s hope that he improves, given his 15.5% mark in the minor leagues, we have to remember that he completely skipped over Triple-A. He had a 16.8% strikeout rate at Double-A and seeing a rise against much more talented and experienced pitchers is not a surprise. It’s very possible that he improves as he gains more experience, but he’s obviously not there yet.
Yes, he’s still just 24-years old and he has shown an increase in power this season (16.1% HR/FB). However, it’s hard to call him a good buy right now. If he shows the ability to hit the ball with more authority like he has shown in the past (he had 25 doubles, 1 triple and 13 HR in 317 AB at Double-A in ’11), then I’d be hopeful. Without that, he doesn’t offer enough power, he has little speed and he’s not a lock to hit in the middle of the Astros order. In other words, he doesn’t offer much right now.
I would try to acquire him for pennies on the dollar, if possible, but don’t view him as the savior of your team for 2012. He’s nothing more than a potential help if he can figure it out. That said, if you are looking at 2013 and beyond and I am still very confident that he can produce and be a very good option in all formats.