As we creep closer to the start of the baseball season it is time to start thinking about what we might see from the Red Sox players. As a team that won a World Series in 2018, expectations will be high. Those expectations will be boosted even further by how the Red Sox performed in the regular season. To kick off my look at what we can expect I am starting with the 40 home run superstar J.D. Martinez. In 649 plate appearances in 2018, Martinez hit 43 home runs with a .330 batting average a combined 240 runs and RBI. If we dig deeper into Martinez’s performance, can he sustain those numbers in 2019?
Martinez came into Boston off the back of one of the best second halves of a season in baseball history. In the back half of 2017 with the Diamondbacks, Martinez hit an incredible 29 home runs in 257 plate appearances. To put that into context, that is a home run every 8.86 plate appearances! The numbers behind that incredible number are also impressive. Across the whole of 2017, Martinez had a 91 mph exit velocity and a barrel percentage of 19.5%. Many people felt the only way was down in 2018, but they were mostly wrong.
Yes his PA/HR numbers dropped from that incredible second half, but it was a still home run in every 15.1 plate appearances. His barrel % dipped to 16%, which is still incredible, and his launch angle dropped 4.6 degrees. However, we actually saw his exit velocity increase by 2 mph to 93 mph. All told, Martinez ranked right up among the top 2% in the league in all the right metrics for power, hard hit rate, exit velocity and barrel %.
Getting On Base
Something that Martinez took to a new level in 2018 was his ability to get on base. Martinez set a career high in OBP, with a .402 mark, thanks to a career high in batting average, and pretty much matching it for walk rate. When you are getting on base over 40% of the time you are absolutely killing it for your team. Those numbers are the reason he had 110 runs and 130 RBI last season.
Focusing on the batting average, which sat at .330, it is a number he could come close to repeating. A good indicator of whether a batting average is true or not is expected batting average. Expected batting average is calculated based on the % chance of success of each batted ball event. Well, Martinez had an expected batting average of .310, which is extremely impressive. In fact, it ranked in the top 1% of the league. If I had to bet I would say .330 is something he will not repeat, but I would definitely bet he is right around the .300 region, which is still extremely impressive.
The Final Product
Martinez is now 31 so he may be coming towards the end of his prime. However, the numbers from last year did not suggest a drop off, and it would be unfair on him to expect anything less than a 90% return on what we saw last season. If I had to put numbers on it I would say 37-40 home runs, a batting average in the .300 region and a combined 220 runs and RBI.
Injuries will always be a concern for Martinez, but he will play the bare minimum in the outfield. Therefore, he will be at the plate causing havoc once again for the Red Sox. 2019 should be another great year for this late blooming slugger.