Yesterday, Detroit Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez extended his hitting streak to 14 games, going 2-for-4 with a home run, a double and two RBIs in the Tigers’ 8-6 victory over the Texas Rangers. Martinez is now slashing .320/.356/.648 with nine home runs, 13 doubles and 31 RBIs this season. For as amazing and inspiring as his story has been thus far, it is hardly unprecedented.
Over the past decade or so, MLB has seen many players with raw talent who struggled to find success during the early stages of their careers. Like Martinez, some of these players were eventually given up on by their respective teams, and were traded away or simply discarded, only to go on to find success elsewhere in the big leagues. Players who fit this criteria are commonly described as late bloomers.
One of the original late bloomers of this generation was Raul Ibanez, who was recently released by the Los Angeles Angels, perhaps ending a storied career. Ibanez never played in more than 100 games in a year until the Kansas City Royals gave him the chance to do so during his age-29 season. He went on to record over 2,000 hits and more than 300 home runs in his 19-year career.
Other players who have followed in Ibanez’s footsteps include, but are not necessarily limited to, Carlos Pena, Ryan Ludwick, Jayson Werth, Nelson Cruz, Mike Morse and perhaps most famously Jose Bautista and Chris Davis. Obviously, the soon-to-be 27-year-old Martinez still has a long way to go to be added to this list, but at his current pace, he appears to be well on his way.
Due to the fact that Tigers fans have seen the likes of Chris Shelton and Brennan Boesch fizzle after hot starts, there is a certain amount of trepidation in Motown about prematurely labeling Martinez as “the next great thing,” and rightfully so. However, Martinez has one thing in common with most of the aforementioned late bloomers — he absolutely tore it up in the minor leagues.
Knock on wood, hopefully that is a sign that he will be able to sustain his current level of success. But only time will tell.