clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

J.D. Martinez far exceeded every expectation for the Tigers in 2015

Martinez provided offensive power and surprisingly solid defense in right field, a strength the Tigers haven't had in a few years.

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The big question entering 2015 was whether J.D. Martinez could replicate his 2014 season. Was he a one-hit wonder or could he sustain the offensive power he provided the Detroit Tigers? He had proven alright defensively, and the Tigers figured his bat could offset an average glove. Martinez's season not only substantiated his offensive abilities, but he ended up being a surprise strength in the outfield and a club staple for the foreseeable future.

That's quite impressive for a player that even the Houston Astros didn't even see fit to keep around. But while his offensive numbers were substantial in their own right, it was his defense that helped Martinez stand out not just on the team, but in Major League Baseball. Martinez has now locked down right field as his territory, and the Tigers go into the 2015 offseason looking to offer him a contract extension.

On the season, Martinez hit .282/.344/.535 with 38 home runs, 102 RBI, 33 doubles, and an ISO of .253. He carried an 8.1 walk percentage, slightly above the 7.7 MLB average. And his 137 wRC+ is a full 35 points higher than the league average of 102.

That said, Martinez struck out 27.1 percent of the time, well above the 20.5 average for the league. That's not uncommon for some power hitters, and Martinez still has some adjusting to do, even by his own admission. But even former Tiger Yoenis Cespedes struck out around average and Miguel Cabrera was well below that line. If there's one area he needs to improve on, it's his strikeout rate in 2016.

Combine that with the fact he's been tweaking and forcing his mind and body out of bad habits for the last two seasons, Martinez still has a lot of work to do. That goes for his defense, too, despite his defensive prowess. Some of his range in right could be attributed to his range -- thanks to his long arms and legs -- and there were moments where he showed a lack of taking an accurate route to a ball. Later in the season it led to some errors.

However, on the whole, Martinez gave the Tigers something they haven't had in right field for some time -- solid defense. To that end, he's been nominated as a finalist for the 2015 American League Gold Glove in right. It was highly unlikely that he would have won the Fielding Bible Award -- used to measure the best defender for each position and they pay attention to the more advanced statistics rather than traditional. The reason being, Martinez had only 4 DRS compared to Jason Heyward's 22 (he won the award), and his 7.7 UZR was overshadowed by Heyward's 20.2.

However, Martinez had the strongest arm in right field and the third-strongest in the majors for all outfielders. He also finished with 15 assists, third-best in the AL. That bodes well for him in the future if he can refine his skills further. Martinez has strength, sure, but he has to learn to use it properly in order to become a true defensive fielding power. Considering the jump he made from last year to 2015, it shouldn't be beyond reach.

Grade: A

Missed 40 home runs by just two. He started out in a major slump after a strong spring training that left a lot of people wondering if the carriage had turned back into a pumpkin. But J.D. made the adjustments and quietly became one of the best defensive outfielders in the AL. He finished with 4 DRS (ninth-best in the AL) and 15 assists (third-best in the AL). His 8.6 ARM rating is second-best in MLB only to the Orioles' Adam Jones. In all, a solid second year with the Tigers.

Expectations for 2016

Martinez finished with 5.0 fWAR for the year, in the top 10 for all outfielders, making him quite valuable. It's likely that he'll receive a contract extension, as he should after what he's given the Tigers for the last two seasons. Defensively, he should be just as good, if not better, than he was in 2015. How much so, will be up to him. It will be interesting to see if he can close in or top the 40 home run mark, but taking his power into account -- which sits in Cabrera territory -- it wouldn't be a surprise in the least.