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J.D. Martinez's Fire...Smoke and Mirrors or Everlasting Flame?

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers outfielder, J.D. Martinez is hotter than fish grease. The sub-50% owned Martinez is the number 9 fantasy player over the past month. The number 5 fantasy player over the past 2 weeks, and the number 4 fantasy player over the past week. He's gaudy, right now, and playing with some kind of cosmic superpower reserved for the pages of a Stan Lee novelette. Seriously, observe this stat line over 17 June games. 24/65 H/AB, 10 R, 7 HR, 20 RBI, .369/.382/.815 triple slash for a whopping 1.198 OPS. He was fairly nasty in 16 May games, as well, posting a .279/.333/.512 triple slash. There has been some sustained success here. But, who the heck is J.D. Martinez? I mean nobody drafted him. He's a 26 year old former hot prospect who showed glimpses of success in Houston, only to find himself out of a job coming into the 2014 season. The Detroit Tigers took a flier on him, and he promptly destroyed Minor League pitching to the tune of .308/.356/.648 triple slash in 122 ABs. Julio Daniel Martinez is hitting the baseball hard and often. But, is his reign of baseball swatting terror sustainable? In a word, no. Not the nearly 1.200 OPS he's bopping out there at the moment. That's going to come back to Earth. Ken Griffey Jr. never posted an OPS greater than 1.028, and Julio Daniel is no Ken Griffey Jr. But, what is sustainable for him? J.D. is claiming he re-worked his approach in his minor league stint this year, and the robust results over the past month are a by-product of the hard work he put in. How many times have we heard that one over the years? Let's look under the hood and try and dissect exactly who J.D. Martinez is, by comparing a few splits, so we can attempt to reason out whether this is a jet-engine that we want to ride around the world in, or a magic carpet ride to enjoy for however long it lasts. First lets take a look at the big red flags indicating dangerous tides. J.D. has over 1100 big league at bats of data to review and 122 ABs on the season. Career: he has struck out 260 times to 71 career walks for roughly a 3.7 K:BB ratio. During his baseball killing spree he's striking out 4.25 times per walk (34:8), which is not an improvement in plate discipline. His performance vs southpaws and right handers hasn't been egregiously different over his career as he's posted an identical .725 OPS vs both. During his 2014 hot streak he's feasting on Right Handers with a 1.188 OPS while starving on southpaws posting a .534 OPS (there is a degree of small sample size at play, but the split is interesting). J.D.'s career BABIP is .314 (1.32 GB/FB) During his hot streak, he's posting a .370 BABIP (0.97 GB/FB). During his career he strikes out a lot (23.5% of the time) He is striking out more than ever this year (25% of the time). Considering a significant dip in GB% (-7%) and the inflated BABIP, J.D.'s batting average and OBP have cliff dive written all over them. He is hitting more line drives, and more fly balls, however, so a bump in power makes sense, but there are more red flags to sort out. J.D, throughout his career, has shown .159 isolated power in the big leagues and a HR/FB of 12.6%. He is posting a 2014 ISO of .328 which is a bit absurd and driven largely by a ridiculous 26% HR/FB ratio. He's hitting a HR more than one out of every four times he puts the ball in the air. That's not going to continue. Martinez is, formerly, a highly regarded prospect, who has shown plus power. Given the increase in fly balls and HR/FB ratio, I do expect J.D. to continue to contribute in the power department, but not at the 50+ HR pace he's been on. The batting average and OBP are an absolute mirage in my opinion. J.D. is hotter than fish grease right now, so by all means ride the wave until it crashes. But, once he settles in, I think a reasonable expectation for him would be a Colby Rasmus looking line of a .255/.310/.415 triple slash (.725 OPS), 10 HR (rest of season). There is value in that, and it should keep J.D. in the majors and in the line up. The left-handed woes are a thing to watch, as it could ultimately lead to a platoon role for him, but he should continue to produce at a reasonable clip throughout the season. He isn't going to continue anything near this torrid pace, however. If you're one of those looking to cash in on peak value, now may be a good time to shop J.D. for maximum return, before his production normalizes.

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