Just over a year ago today, the Houston Astros cut struggling outfielder J.D. Martinez. The once promising prospect was struggling at the plate, underachieving, and had mega-prospect George Springer breathing down his neck. He was 27, a career .250 hitter, and was seeking a fresh opportunity.
The Detroit Tigers jumped on the outfielder.
The Tigers had gaps the size of Andre the Giant in their outfield and were looking for someone to hit, occasionally field, and stay healthy. After failed experiments with names like Jacques Jones (this trade alone sends chills down my spine), Casper Wells (traded, but now back in the Tigers’ organization), and sending Avisail Garcia to the Chicago White Sox after an apparent *cough* problem *cough,* taking a flyer on Martinez was a perfectly logical move.
Martinez started in Triple-A Toledo, and with a slight tweak to his swing, absolutely RAKED, begging the Tigers to call him up to the show with 10 homers in 17 games with the Mud Hens. When they did, he was ready. Martinez finished the 2014 season hitting .315 with 23 home runs and 76 RBIs, easily career highs. Some guys named Victor and Miguel did sort of overshadow him a bit, though.
With the 2015 season knocking on the door, Martinez is expected to be a key contributor in the Tigers’ lineup. He’s expected to hit in the fifth spot, right behind Victor Martinez and ahead of newly-acquired Yoenis Cespedes, creating a gauntlet that any pitcher would whimper at.
Can J.D. duplicate his insane success from last season? Only time will tell.