Hobbies of new Detroit acquisition, JD Martinez, include dancing, long walks on the beach and knocking the pulp out of the baseball.
Julio Daniel Martinez, the 26-year-old bombshell, has been the lightning bolt in a Tigers team that was desperate for an electric player. Originally Houston’s everyday left fielder, Martinez’s mediocre numbers in 2013 led to multiple trips to the minor leagues, with an eventual release from the Astros organization.
Martinez found a new home in Toledo, Ohio for the beginning of the 2014 season. After a .300 average and 10 homers in 17 games for the Mud Hens, he donned the Old English D late in April.
Ever since, Martinez has made it perfectly clear he has no intentions of going back.
The new Martinez in Detroit made sparse appearances in the lineup in April and early May. Detroit’s winning streaks led manager Brad Ausmus to change very little in the lineup. As May turned into June and Detroit fell flat, Martinez found himself in the lineup more and more. Torii Hunter’s hamstring injury allowed him to start games; Martinez’s numbers at the plate have kept him there.
In June, Martinez is batting a mind-boggling .345 at the plate with seven home runs and 21 RBI’s. He has reached base safely in 15 of Detroit’s last 16 games, and his average has not dipped below .300 since May 19. Martinez also received American League Player of the Week honors in the MLB, after hitting .444 with three doubles, four home runs and 11 RBI’s in that period. Consistency has been Martinez’s game in an oft-inconsistent team.
Everything has gone right for Martinez, except for one problem: Detroit’s already set outfield.
So, what to do with J.D? When all three players in Hunter, Rajai Davis, and Austin Jackson are healthy, who sits? Jackson seems like the obvious choice: just three home runs and 22 RBI’s in 2014 barely matches what Martinez has done in the past month. Jackson may be a hometown hero, but a new man may soon fill that role. Wherever the new Tiger lands, it certainly will not be on the bench. Someone may lose their everyday status, and Jackson may need to show leadership by stepping down.
Martinez has put a charge into both Detroit and its fans, perhaps just for the relief of a new headline. A new face smacking the leather off the ball is exponentially more exciting to discuss than a bullpen surrendering runs and blowing games.
Martinez has gotten Detroit back to its roots: power hitting. His .312 batting average and near .400 OBP won him the fifth spot in the lineup, following Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. Offering protection to Victor allows fewer teams to pitch around the Venezuelan and has them eyeballing the red-hot Tiger in the on-deck circle.
Flash in the pan may still be a phrase following Martinez around Detroit. Many can still remember prodigies Brennan Boesch, Ryan Raburn, and others before them. Hot Mud Hens are an annual event, but only the truly consistent earn a spot before getting shipped off or sent down. The numbers do not lie on Martinez, but power numbers in June mean nothing in July.
Richie Cozzolino is co-host of Tiger Talk for Impact Sports.