Up: J.D. Martinez
Eduardo Rodriguez was a candidate for this spot, thanks to his strong work in May. However, what J.D. Martinez has meant to this team can’t be ignored, and that makes him a riser for the second month in a row. Martinez’s prowess with a bat in his hands hasn’t been lost on anyone who even casually follows baseball. What makes him a riser after May is how crucial he has become to the team’s success, particularly with Betts sidelined for a short period.
Martinez hit well in April, to the tune of five home runs, 22 RBI, and a .352 average. In May, however, he proved he was more than just a great hitter; he proved himself to be a force of nature.
In the season’s second full month, Martinez went absolutely bananas at the plate. He totaled a .299 batting average, 13 home runs, and 25 RBI. It often seemed like he and Betts were playing their own private game of HORSE; one would hit a bomb (or sometimes two) and then wait to see if the other could match it. Martinez has given the Red Sox a fearsome presence in the middle of the order, something they missed last season without David Ortiz. While Martinez isn’t the kind of leader Ortiz was, at least not yet, so far he’s every bit the power hitter.
What’s more, if Betts had gone down for this extended time and the Sox had not had Martinez, they might have floundered badly. Instead, they’re playing close games with the defending champions and keeping pace with the slugging Yankees. Boston has another player who can be cosistently relied upon to drive in runs, and the weight is off Mookie’s shoulders. That’s made him play better and more comfortably, and seems to have instilled a confidence in the team as a whole. The Red Sox don’t fear any opponent, and Martinez is largely to thank for that.