In 2010, Jose Bautista, a man who was once thought to be something of a fringe player during his time with the Pittsburgh Pirates, shocked the baseball world by launching 54 home runs for the Toronto Blue Jays. The right-handed slugger’s previous career-high was 16.
Bautista has since gone on to have three, going on four, more highly productive seasons with the Blue Jays. He now belongs to a list of baseball players who are widely described as “late bloomers” — guys who showed raw potential early on in their careers, but were unable to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together until they were older and more mature. Other names one might find on this list include, but are not necessarily limited to, Raul Ibanez, Carlos Pena, Ryan Ludwick, Nelson Cruz and most recently Chris Davis.
Yesterday, the Detroit Tigers called up a right-handed power hitter who might just be the next player who is added to this list. His name is J.D. Martinez.
This spring, Martinez was released by the Houston Astros, a team that he played for from 2011-13, and was subsequently picked up by the Tigers and immediately assigned to Triple-A Toledo. After reporting to Toledo, Martinez went on a serious tear. He was batting .308 and astonishingly had 10 home runs in just 17 games at the time of his call-up.
It is interesting to compare Martinez to Bautista as they are both powerful right-handed swingers who showed promising power potential in the minor leagues but were slow to show it against MLB pitching. Although Bautista eventually found success at the big-league level, it remains to be seen whether or not Martinez can follow suit. There is, however, some evidence that suggests that Martinez is capable of doing so.
Many believe that Bautista’s power simply came out of nowhere in 2010, but it is very important to note that he did in fact have a season in the minor leagues back in 2005 where he hit 24 home runs and drove in 94 runs. Likewise, Martinez had a season in the minors back in 2010 where he batted .341 and hit 18 home runs with 89 RBIs. He was certainly on pace to hit an incredible amount of homers this season in Toledo as well.
Just because Martinez could not approach those type of numbers with Houston does not mean that it would be impossible for him to do so elsewhere in the big leagues.
Right now, Martinez is actually younger than Bautista was when he came into his own during the 2010 season. Bautista was in his age-29 season back in 2010 and turned 30 that October. Martinez is 26 at the moment and will not be 27 until August. He is still very young and there is plenty of time left for him to make his mark on the game.
Obviously, Martinez does, however, still have a long way to go if he is to become the next Bautista.
There is also a question of how much playing time Martinez, a corner outfielder, will be able to get in Detroit this season. The Tigers’ right fielder, Torii Hunter, is certainly not going anywhere, and Rajai Davis has essentially run away with the left field job. Furthermore, Victor Martinez is firmly cemented in the DH spot.
That said, Martinez certainly showed in Toledo that the potential for him to become a big-time run producer is definitely present. When he gets his chances, hopefully he will capitalize on them. If he does, who knows what the future may hold.