Back when the Detroit Tigers signed J.D. Martinez to a minor league contract near the end of Spring Training, it drew little attention from most Tigers fans. Martinez had just been released by the Houston Astros, and although he had an impressive minor league resume to his name, he had struggled to translate his minor league success to the big leagues in the three seasons he spent with the Astros from 2011-13. The Tigers obviously saw something in the 26-year-old, however.
Martinez was quickly assigned to Triple-A Toledo where he caught fire, hitting to the tune of a .308 batting average with 10 home runs and 22 RBIs in just 17 games. The Tigers awarded him with a call-up on Apr. 21, and he has been with the big league club ever since. Although he got off to a little bit of a slow start, he has been on a steady tear ever since he clubbed a pinch-hit home run, which was his first homer of the season, off of Cleveland Indians‘ reliever Cody Allen on May 19.
Martinez enters play on Thursday boasting a slash line of .311/.350/.557 with 17 home runs, 25 doubles, two triples and 58 RBIs. As the Tigers’ No. 5 hitter, he has provided ample protection for cleanup man Victor Martinez, who is also having a great season.
Heading into the 2014 campaign, some raised concerns about the Tigers’ offense having a lack of power, particularly because of the trade of Prince Fielder and the departure of Jhonny Peralta. Furthermore, Miguel Cabrera may be hitting .307 with 17 home runs and 90 RBIs this season, but he is not quite producing at the pace that he has in previous years. The emergence of Martinez has helped make up for some of that, however.
Even with Cabrera and the Martinezs, though, there are still plenty of fans who thought that the Tigers could have used an extra bat at the trading deadline, and there have certainly been occasions this year where the team’s offense has fallen flat. It is tough to imagine what the Tigers’ offense would have looked like without J.D. Martinez in 2014.