The Tigers acquired J.D. Martinez in March when he was released by Houston. The Tigers needed depth in the outfield with Andy Dirks out for three months. Martinez had major league experience and some success, but the Astros' system is deep following years of high draft picks. For instance, as I typed that sentence, George Springer hit one off the top of the right field wall against the A's. The Astros had too many outfield prospects, and Martinez is 26 years old, so he was expendable.
Martinez was assigned to Triple-A Toledo and has started in left field. Coming into the day's action he was hitting .271 with only one walk but six home runs. That is five more than the Tigers had in the past nine days.
The Mud Hens faced the Indian's Triple-A affiliate Columbus on Saturday. In the first inning Martinez hit a home run, driving in Hernan Perez. In the second inning, sensing his left field opportunity in Detroit slipping away, Ezequiel Carrera matched Martinez with a home run of his own. In the third inning, Martinez went opposite field for home run number two. In the fifth inning, Martinez went yard again driving in Hernan Perez. All three home runs were off Tyler Cloyd, a seven-year minor league veteran with 17 major league starts. A four-home-run game was not to be, as Martinez grounded out to end the sixth inning. That was his last at-bat of Toledo's 8-to-1 victory, since this was game one of a doubleheader. The games were only seven innings.
Columbus started Toru Murata in game two. J.D. homered in the first inning, driving in Carrera. The pressure must have been intense by the third inning, as Martinez grounded into a double play. A nine-pitch at-bat in the fifth inning ended quietly in a walk, though Martinez advanced to third on a double by Tyler Collins. In the seventh inning, a dramatic seven-pitch at-bat also ended in a walk. The Mud Hens won 7 to 6. Martinez had eight plate appearances for the day, reaching base six times with four home runs and two walks.
J.D. Martinez posted some eye-popping numbers in the minor leagues, including a .362 batting average and 1.030 OPS in Single-A Lexington in 2010, and .338 batting average and .959 OPS in Double-A Corpus Christi in 2011. His rookie season in Houston was promising with an OPS+ of 104 and 6 home runs in 53 games. He slumped in his sophomore campaign but the power was still there with 11 home runs in 113 games. Last year was his worst, with an OPS+ of 79 and 7 home runs in half a season.
Tyler Collins was optioned to Toledo on Friday, leaving the Tigers with only four outfielders. The fourth, Don Kelly, is also needed in the infield. Soon a pitcher will be sent down and an outfielder called up. J.D. Martinez has stated his case with authority, with 10 home runs in 17 games, and only suffers from being right-handed. Rajai Davis could use a platoon partner who prefers right-handed pitching. Martinez has a career split of .662 OPS against right-handers and .751 against left-handers. On the other hand, Tyler Cloyd and Toru Murata are right-handed.
Ezequiel Carrera had a big day too, with five hits raising his average to .364. Carrera has two distinct advantages over Martinez: he is left-handed, and he is Venezuelan. I believe his defense is superior too, as he typically plays center field.
When the Tigers add an outfielder, it will be a hot bat. Which would you prefer?