What to Expect From J.D. Martinez in 2015
J.D. Martinez was one of the best stories of the 2014 season. The former Astros prospect landed with the Detroit Tigers and earned an April promotion. His final 2014 AAA statline ended at .308/.366/.846 with 10 home runs in only 71 plate appearances. With the Tigers, he continued the breakout with a line of .315/.358/.553 with 23 homers and 76 RBI in 123 games and 480 plate appearances. His .391 wOBA would have placed eighth if he had enough at-bats to qualify.
Martinez placed as the 49th-best fantasy baseball batter according to numberFire rankings. On ESPN leagues, he has an average draft position (ADP) of 149.1, meaning if he repeats last year’s success, he could be a steal. Let’s see what to look for from Martinez this season.
Home Runs and Other Counting Stats
With the MLB-wide decline in batting production, Martinez’s counting stats will drive his fantasy value. Let’s start with home runs.
Martinez changed his swing prior to the 2014 season, with the most notable effect being the ability to drive pitches the other way. You can see his distribution of 2014 home runs to see an almost-even balance between left, center, and right fields.
One stat to watch will be his HR/FB%. In 2014, he smashed a whopping 19.5% of fly balls out of the park, which is a figure only the best of power hitters can consistently match. It is safe to assume that regression will pull that rate down, but I wouldn’t be surprised if his massive power actually translates to a HR/FB% of that magnitude.
In addition, Martinez had a fly ball percentage of 36.8%, which is okay, but on the lower side of where you want a slugger to be. He can’t give up too many more fly balls and expect the same home run production.
If Martinez bats fifth in the Tigers’ lineup again, he should improve upon his 76 RBI. He will certainly hit behind on-base enthusiasts Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, and will benefit even more if Ian Kinsler is bumped to second in the order, as opposed to Jose Iglesias. It also remains to be seen where newcomer Yoenis Cespedes will hit.
Martinez managed a batting average of .315 last year, but it was driven by a .389 BABIP. With the swing adjustments, Martinez is hitting the ball hard, so it’s fair to expect an above-average number, albeit below .389.
If he stick with his (high) strikeout rate of 26.3% and assign him a .340 BABIP, his batting average would fall all the way to .251. Of course, the MLB aggregate batting average was .251, so he won’t hurt you too much in Roto leagues. In points leagues that deduct for strikeouts, Martinez obviously loses some value.
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All three projections are generally fond of Martinez this year. Steamer and ZiPS expect Martinez to lower his strikeout rate this year, which would help his batting average. Also, ZiPS' 90 RBI projection is a hint at the upside Martinez has with this Detroit lineup.
If I can get Martinez as my third outfielder, I'm happy. He has 30-homer upside in a stacked lineup, and his draft position is still lower than his expected performance this season. Scoop him up and reap the benefits.