Boston Red Sox designated hitter J.D. Martinez collected the 200th home run of his career during Tuesday’s win in Baltimore.
J.D. Martinez sent a reminder to the Baltimore Orioles that he’s still among the most feared sluggers in the game. He attacked the first pitch he saw from David Hess, sending it 416 feet to dead-center for a two-run homer that gave the Boston Red Sox a first-inning lead.
The blast was noteworthy not only for drawing first blood in an eventual Red Sox victory. It was also the 200th home run of Martinez’ career.
Martinez tallied his 200th home run in his 957th career game, making him the seventh-fastest active major league player to reach that total, according to the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. Only Giancarlo Stanton, Albert Pujols, Chris Davis, Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, and Khris Davis achieved this milestone in fewer career games.
The achievement solidifies Martinez’ status as one of the premier power hitters in the game today. Martinez was second in the majors with 43 home runs last year while making a valiant run at the coveted Triple Crown and he set a career-high with 45 the previous year.
While he’s known as an elite power threat now, that wasn’t always the case. Martinez struggled at the plate in his first few seasons, collecting only 24 total home runs over parts of three seasons before the Houston Astros gave up on him. Martinez transformed his swing by embracing the launch angle movement after catching on with the Detroit Tigers. His breakout season finally came in 2014 when he hit 23 homers and he was an All-Star the following year when he reached 38 in a career-high 158 games.
That it took so long for Martinez to play in anything close to a full season is what will hold him back in the long run. It’s impressive that just over a handful of active players have reached 200 home runs in as many games as Martinez did yet most of them got there before turning 31 years old. Pujols and Trout will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame one day but they reached 200 home runs by their age 25 seasons. Martinez was still considered a bust in the Astros organization at that age.
The closest comparison to Martinez in this select group is Oakland’s Khris Davis, who bashed his 200th home run earlier this season at the age of 31. It was the 790th career game for Davis, who didn’t reach the majors until he was 25.
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Being a late bloomer may cost Martinez a realistic shot at reaching 500 home runs, the benchmark power hitters believe will stamp their ticket to Cooperstown. The Red Sox don’t care about how long it took him to reach this level though, only what he’s doing for them now. The current version of Martinez is one of the league’s best hitters.
Martinez enters the day hitting .323 and tied for third in the American League with 43 hits. Only five of those hits have left the ballpark, barely placing him inside the league’s top-50 in home runs this season. That’s not a pace we expect from a power threat of his caliber yet it’s no reason to be concerned.
Martinez was sitting on only five home runs by the end of April last season but still finished among the league leaders. There were plenty of hard-hit balls that stalled on the warning track early in the season but as the weather warmed up, those balls began clearing the fence. Martinez exploded for 13 home runs in the month of May and reached 29 by the All-Star break.
This latest home run was only his first of this month, ending a 15-game homerless stretch that stands as his longest drought since 2013. He has some catching up to do in order to get back on last year’s pace but perhaps the rush of reaching an important career milestone will get him going.