Boston Red Sox outfield stat projections for the 2022 season
Red Sox designated hitter: J.D Martinez
It is impossible to quantify J.D Martinez’s 2021 as anything other than a rousing success. After a disastrous 2020 season in which he was the second-worst player in MLB by fWAR (looking at you, Jo Adell), Martinez unexpectedly returned to becoming an above-average hitter. Martinez slashed a solid .286/.349/.518, drove in nearly 100 runs and led the league with 42 doubles.
It was an absolutely incredible turnaround for Martinez, and the underlying metrics speak to just how much he improved. He raised his exit velocity by over two and a half MPH, lifted his barrel percentage by a point and a half, and increased his hard-hit rate by nearly eight points. Martinez repeatedly said that his decline in 2020 was due in large part to being unable to use in-game video, and he backed up those words with his bat.
As good as Martinez’s 2021 season was, there were still some warning signs. Though his numbers were undoubtedly better than they were in 2020, they paled in comparison to the levels of his 2017-2019. As he enters his age 34 season, it’s highly unlikely he ever reaches those marks again.
Martinez’s age is also showing up in the underlying metrics. One of his biggest problems in 2020 was his inability to hit fastballs, as he had an xWOBA of just .281 against such pitches. He was able to improve that number to .343 in 2021, but selling out for the heater came with a cost. His plate discipline regressed, leading to his highest chase rate since his rookie season and his lowest walk rate since 2015. Pitchers responded by throwing more breaking balls than ever, and Martinez responded by whiffing at such offerings 40% of the time.
Another worry with Martinez comes with Alex Cora’s announcement that he will likely play right field against left-handed pitchers. Besides being a completely inept defender, the idea of a 34-year-old with a history of lower-body injuries lumbering around the outfield for a significant portion of the season is cause for concern.
Martinez proved last year that he still has some gas left in the tank, but the underlying metrics show that he’s not the hitter he once was. Expect his numbers to keep dropping as he enters his mid-30s.
Stats Predictions: .271/.324/.463, 21 HR, 78 RBI, 1.7 WAR