Who the heck is Jose Martinez? That’s a question you probably asked yourself last spring while he was stealing the show and a roster spot (from Tommy Pham, no less). He had impressed in a 16 AB cup-of-coffee late in 2016, but fans had to question if he could really sustain the red hot spring. He did. With this year’s schedule of exhibition games about to begin, he could be primed to steal a starting role. But was his impressive 2017 for real? I believe so. And with the help of three other Jose’s, I’ll try to bring some perspective to just how much of an impact he could make.
Now, credit where credit is due. My Redbird Daily colleague and Bird Law podcast co-host, Adam Butler, turned me on to the idea of Martinez forcing his way into a regular role. He talked about it late last season, comparing him to J.D. Martinez, and he’s continued to talk about it. He believes that 2017 was not only real, but that he may be capable of more. I wouldn’t be surprised if he dives deeper into Jose as the spring rolls along.
He used another Martinez, I’ll be using other Jose’s to frame-up our rising star.
Jose #1 – Jose Martinez
Of course it all starts with the man himself.
First, here is a run down of what he did last season:
.309/.379/.518, 84 H, 46 R, 13 2B, 14 HR, 47 RBI
He did this in 307 plate appearances, which slightly less than half of what a starting position player gets in a full (healthy) season.
Additionally he had a SO% of 19.5% and a healthy enough BB% of 10.4%, and managed to have the 16th best individual season in regards to wOBA (weighted on-base average) in the Statcast Era (2015 on).
His pure hitting skills were the most impressive part of his game. These skills were nothing new. This man has always been able to hit. His combined Minor League line is .294/.355/.411. In Foreign Leagues he carried a .302/.360/.438. His bat has played everywhere he’s been. Let’s not forget that he hit .384 to win the PCL batting title in the Royals system back in 2015.
What he never showed much of was HR power. Then he bought into the “fly ball revolution” this past offseason, and we saw the results. Former Redbird Daily and current Birds on the Black writer, Zach Gifford, detailed this in an article last spring, urging us to start believing in Jose.
The new lift in his swing allowed him to tap into the power of his 6’7″ frame and, combined with his natural hitting abilities, created an incredibly well rounded offensive player.
That’s Great, But Where is the Playing Time?
So you may be wondering where this bat is going to fit. First, I’m going to contend that Martinez forces Matt Carpenter to 3B more than we are expecting. For uniformity, I am going to put 150 games down as the target for all regular position players.
So Matt Carpenter likely splits his time almost something like 75 1B, 63 3B, 12 2B (I know they will use him at 2B on Kolten’s days off instead of Gyorko like they should. Note: This leaves 99 games for Jedd to start at 3B and probably gives us the most productive version of him this year. Just throwing that out there).
This leaves 87 games at 1B unmanned. Give those to Martinez.
Your back-up CF is Dexter Fowler. So for Pham’s 12 days off, Fowler moves over. Across the outfield, giving everyone 12 days of rest provides 36 starting opportunities.
I’m sure one of the up-and-coming OF’s will get a few of those, but I’m going to peg Martinez to start around 12 games each in LF and RF this year, bringing his season total to 111 starts.
Then there are 6 road games in AL parks. Martinez will very likely be the DH. That’s 6 more starts. Bringing the season total to 117, conservatively.
The way that this team is setup with positional flexibility, if anyone besides Paul DeJong or Yadier Molina hits the DL, that’s another 8-10 games (or more) for Martinez to get worked into. And injuries always occur at some point.
And then there is the case of Martinez being one of your best hitters and simply not being able to take him out of the lineup. In which case, sorry Jedd, I love you man, but you probably lose a few more starts.
I Now Present Two Stat Lines
Player A: .309/.379/.518, 178 H, 68 BB, 127 SO, 99 R, 27 2B, 30 HR, 98 RBI, 135 wRC+
Player B: .301/.359/.524, 177 H, 42 BB, 126 SO, 81 R, 35 2B, 31 HR, 100 RBI, 139 wRC+
Soak it in. See how similar they are.
Player A is Jose Martinez’s 2017 season, averaged out over 650 plate appearances (a solid mark for a healthy starter).
Player B? Well that leads us to our next Jose.
Jose #2: Jose Abreu
Early in this long, long offseason, Abreu was a player that Cardinals fans would have loved to see added to the team. “Carpenter can play third, go get him,” was the sentiment. He was on my radar. But the White Sox weren’t inclined to trade him. However, he is, by definition, an impact bat. The kind of “2nd bat” that people were calling for to put alongside Marcell Ozuna.
Well, what if I told you that the stat line presented above — so similar to Jose Martinez’s that it’s scary — was the career line of Jose Abreu averaged over 650 plate appearances? What if I told you that last season — very representative of his career — Abreu has the 19th best wRC+ in all of baseball. Had Martinez qualified, he would have been at #25.
Does that put some perspective on how much of an impact bat Martinez can be?
Now, he must continue to hit as he did in 2017. But I believe he will, that’s the premise of the article after all.
The biggest thing for him is that he now appears to have a position at 1B, which can be the path to at-bats. But the glove must play. Bringing us to…
Jose #3: Jose Oquendo
Cardinals fans cannot possibly be more excited to have the “Secret Weapon” back on the Major League staff. No doubt, he will have an effect all over the diamond, from defense to baserunning.
What I want to point out is how much of an effect he could have on Jose Martinez, the first baseman.
The position was relatively new to Jose last year. He had played it sparingly in the minors starting in 2015, but it was more learning on-the-fly than anything else. Oquendo surely worked with him last spring, but once the team went north, that education ended. Now, Oquendo has the entirety of the season to assist a man that made great strides at the position over the course of last year.
Let’s not forget another player on Oquendo’s resume, Jose Alberto Pujols. He was a not-so-good 3B, turned corner OF, turned Gold Glove winning 1B under the tutelage of #11. Martinez’s long arms and 6’7″ height can be an asset at 1B, and I think a full year with Oquendo will have him looking, at the very least, like a league average defensive 1B. Add that to his bat and you have one of the best players in the NL and a natural fit for the #5 spot in a very productive lineup.
And that’s where my lecture on Jose Martinez kind of ends, if it weren’t for mentioning…
Jose #4: Jose Canseco
No, this is not a gab at Martinez being a not-so-great outfielder. Not at all, and I’m sure Willie McGee will help in that regard.
This goes back a little bit. Maybe you are aware, maybe you aren’t, that Jose Martinez’s father Carlos Martinez was a big leaguer as well. He had a middling career in the late-80’s and early-90’s, hitting just 25 homeruns over nearly 1500 at-bats.
But one of those HR’s was rather famous. And so I leave you with this:
Thanks for reading!