The Houston Astros donâ€™t appear to be on the verge of greatness anytime soon.Â Their Major League roster is thin and their farm system is barren.
After Hunter Pence was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies last season, left fielder J.D. Martinez was called up from AA Corpus Christi (TL) to fill the void in their lineup. Martinez was hitting .338 with 13 HR and 50 RBI in 370 PA. The move was as much out of necessity for the organization as it was deserved by Martinez.
Positively speaking, Martinez displayed good control of the strike zone throughout his time in the Minor Leagues. He had a 7.82% walk rate and a 15.54% strikeout rate throughout all levels. Â These figures are both slightly above average.
Although he never hit 20 HR in the Minors, Martinez came very close between two levels in 2010 (18 HR) and 2011 (19 HR). In 226 Major League plate appearances, Martinez posted a 36.8% GB rate, 35.6% FB rate, and a 27.6% LD rate. His ability to hit the ball as squarely as he did last year contributed to his .325 BABIP with Houston. Ironically, this was his lowest mark since posting a .353 BABIP with Tri-City in the NYPL (A-).
Martinez has only stolen 7 bases in his professional career, making his BABIP even more remarkable.
For as easy as it would be to throw a â€œluckâ€ label on him, J.D.â€™s ability to hit the ball on a line coupled with his average K and BB rates makes him an interesting player to project moving forward. He had 38 doubles between AA and Houston in 2011 and 40 between A+ and AA in 2010. He plays the gaps very well and figures to drive in plenty of runs in 2012.
The biggest thing working for Martinez this season is that he figures to hit third in the Astros lineup. After his call-up in 2011, the most common 1-5 hitters used by the Astros were Schafer-Altuve-Martinez-Lee-Bogusevic. With the assumption that Carlos Lee hits behind him again in 2012, Martinez figures to have enough protection to see good pitches. He also has two players hitting in front of him who have the potential to steal 20 bases. Throw in Jason Bourgeois and Martinez should have plenty of run producing opportunities.
Realistically, we can see J.D. hitting 18 HR, scoring 70 runs, and driving in 85 while posting a .290 BA. All things considered, thatâ€™s not a terrible line for someone you probably didnâ€™t hear of before August 2011. Although he may not merit much consideration on Draft Day in a standard 10 team mixed league, Martinez shows all the signs of a breakout player for 2012.