Red Sox DH J.D. Martinez
No player in baseball was effected more by the unprecedented changes in 2020 than J.D. Martinez. The veteran designated hitter is a creature of habit and the COVID-19 shutdown threw a giant wrench into his routine that he was never able to recover from. With new temporary rules to enforce social distancing placing restrictions on viewing video of his at-bats during games, Martinez looked completely lost at the plate.
Martinez was an All-Star and MVP candidate in each of his first two seasons with the Red Sox but he was arguably the least valuable player in baseball this year. FanGraphs valued him at a major league-low -1.0 WAR. He hasn’t been in the negatives since his early days in Houston before he changed his swing to embrace the launch angle movement.
His lack of defensive value always hinders his rating by this metric but Martinez averaged over 4.5 WAR in the previous two seasons based on his ability to hit at an elite level.
Martinez didn’t hit much at all this year. He posted a career-low .213 average and a .680 OPS that was his lowest since 2013 with the Astros.
He led the Red Sox in home runs over the last two years but tied for fifth on the team with only seven homers this season. That’s one fewer than Bobby Dalbec, who didn’t make his major league debut until the end of August, and Mitch Moreland, who was traded after 22 games.
Martinez has an opt-out clause in his contract that he’s unlikely to exercise in the wake of his awful season. The Red Sox must hope that the drastic change in routine led to his struggles at the plate rather than a sign that the 33-year-old has reached his decline phase. The former is correctable under the normal conditions we expect to return to next year. The latter means his eroding skills are only going to get worse.
There’s no shortage of disappointing players on the last-place Red Sox. The team will cut bait with many of them while some are young enough that we can expect them to bounce back. When factoring in his lofty expectations, age, and salary, Martinez’s poor production is the biggest disappointment that has us most concerned moving forward.