When the Red Sox signed J.D. Martinez, the hope was that he would fill in the power gap left behind by David Ortiz. He has, plus so much more.
Over the 2017-2018 winter the Boston Red Sox had an obvious need. A power bat to slot into the middle of the lineup. There was a David Ortiz shaped hole there and no one from the 2017 roster had been able to step up and fill it. That made free agent J.D. Martinez an obvious target so it was no surprise that they eventually signed him. If all J.D. Martinez did was don a Red Sox cap and hit bombs, the contract would have been worth it. But he didn’t stop there.
No, J.D. Martinez has done a whole lot more than hit bombs. Of course, he’s hitting bombs at an incredible rate. But that’s not all he’s bringing to the table. Even just statistically, he’s been more than Red Sox fans were hoping for. His 181 wRC+ would be a career high if he maintains it the rest of the way. And that’s coming off of a career year which everyone thought he’d regress from. That’s being driven by his trading nearly 12% of his fly balls from last year for line drive and ground ball contact.
The 3.8% more line drives is an indication that he’s simply barreling the ball up more frequently. And we can see that in his league leading 13.8 Brls/PA and 44 raw Brls. Yet, shockingly, his production at the plate may not even be his biggest contribution to a first half in which the Red Sox have led MLB in wins.
The team needed a leader to replace David Ortiz.
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Like David Ortiz, J.D. Martinez is a tireless worker on his craft. His craft, of course, being hitting a baseball. Ortiz watched insane amounts of video and spent immeasurable amounts of time in the cage. Martinez is known to do the same. He lives and breathes hitting. If nothing else, he is a wonderful example to younger players of how to dedicate yourself to succeeding at what you do. A leader by example is invaluable to a young club house. But not as valuable as a vocal leader.
While J.D. Martinez isn’t the kind of vocal leader that, say, Dustin Pedroia has been, he doesn’t just lead by going about his business in a professional and exemplary manner. According to Alex Cora, he’s embracing the opportunity to take the reins:
He has the perfect mix of traits to be that cohesive substance in the clubhouse.
Christopher Smith of MassLive.com dug a little deeper on Martinez’s presence in the clubhouse and had this to say in his piece from this morning:
“He’s vocal around his teammates. Being bilingual certainly helps him connect with everyone and allows him to bring everyone in the clubhouse together. And he’s candid with the media. He’s exactly what this team needed.”
Smith also referenced the Devers anecdote and followed by saying that Martinez enjoys breaking down his teammate’s swings. The former Arizona Diamondback and Detroit Tiger has embraced his leadership role, but it was a natural fit. He has always put in the work, and that gives him credibility with younger players. He’s earned the right to be a leader in the clubhouse of a championship hopeful team. When emerging stars can see you making the effort every single day, it resonates. It shows them how they can make the most of their own talent. It gives them a path to follow.
What are your thoughts on J.D. Martinez and his tenure with the Red Sox so far? Is he what this team needed to get over the division round hump in the playoffs and finally advance? Let us know in the comments!