Handing out a mulligan on a golf course sometimes depends on mood or how one views an opponent. In fantasy sports, getting burned by a player often results in his price point dropping despite a strong resumé of past performance. However, adding in the aging curve does not affect every player in the same way as it creates a wrinkle for evaluators to overcome. This puts the spotlight on the profile for J.D. Martinez. Simply put, like many of us, he cratered in 2020.

Perhaps this could be expected of a player the Astros placed on waivers in 2013 and Martinez resurrected his career in Detroit before signing a free agent contract with Boston. But he blossomed into one of baseball's top hitters providing power with a strong slash line. In fact, in the four seasons prior to 2020, Martinez turned in numbers above these thresholds:

  • Batting average > .300
  • On-base percentage > .340
  • Slugging percentage > .530
  • Isolated power > .220
  • Weighted on-base average (wOBA) > .370

Even with Boston trading Mookie Betts , it seemed like Martinez could help carry the offense last season but he struggled slashing a paltry .213/.291/.389 with 22 runs, seven home runs, 27 RBI and a stolen base in 54 games over 237 plate appearances. Taking a larger view of his results, Martinez recorded his lowest walk rate (9.3 percent) since 2015, his strikeout percentage rose to 24.9 percent, his isolated power fell to .175 and his wOBA collapsed below .300 for the shortened season. Less than optimal.

Shifting to his Statcast data for quality of contact results, Martinez registered 154 batted ball events with 17 barrels (11 percent), an 89.5 MPH average exit velocity and a 41.6 percent hard hit rate. It's curious to see Martinez still finish in the 84th percentile in barrels despite his struggles last year, so keep this in the back of your mind. In regards to his expected statistics, Martinez owned an expected batting average (xBA) of .231, a .447 expected slugging (58 points over his actual) and a .304 expected weighted on-base average. Glimmers of hope but not a warm fuzzy.

Martinez collapsed versus fastballs hitting .186 with a .372 slugging rate against them in 2020. He relies on using in-game technology viewing his at-bats which could not be accessed last season. Although Martinez's exit velocity against fastballs fell by two MPH on average, he did record a .487 xSLG despite his struggles along with five of his seven home runs.

Within his plate discipline metrics, Martinez actually turned in a higher zone swing percentage but his zone contact fell by 3.9 percentage points. His swing percentage as a whole also rose by 2.4 percent with his whiff rate rising by 1.4 percent. However, Martinez cut his ground ball rate to a five-season low (35.1 percent) while increasing his fly ball percentage to 28.6 percent (up three) and his line drive rate spiked to 33.8 percent (his highest since 2015). Beneath these numbers, Martinez kept his solid and barrel percentages stable.

Expanding his results to form a broader based analysis of his profile, here are Martinez's numbers from the second half of 2019 through and including his 2020 season:

  • Martinez 2H 2019-through-2020: 121 games, 537 plate appearances, 68 runs, 25 home runs, 84 RBI, two stolen bases; .264/.346/.491, 10.8 BB%, 24 K%, .228 ISO, .349 wOBA

Absorbing his rough 2020, keep in mind during the second half of 2019 Martinez slashed a robust .305/.390/.575 with 18 home runs and 57 RBI in only 300 plate appearances. Talk about a tale of two halves, which 2020 basically represents. Here's his spray chart from this 121-game sample showing all of his line drives and fly balls courtesy of Statcast:

Over the last three years, Martinez owns a .300/.376/.559 slash in 1,553 plate appearances with 231 runs, 86 home runs, 262 RBI and nine stolen bases in 353 games. Again, every player ages differently but the collapse by Martinez needs to be taken with a grain of salt. With this in mind, here are his projections from two different systems:

  • Martinez 2021 Steamer Projection: 150 games, 651 plate appearances, 94 runs, 35 home runs, 106 RBI, three stolen bases; .277/.359/.522, 10.7 BB%, 23.7 K%, .245 ISO, .363 wOBA
  • Martinez 2021 ZiPS Projection: 134 games, 581 plate appearances, 75 runs, 27 home runs, 86 RBI, three stolen base; .264/.339/.487, 10 BB%, 24.6 K%, .223 ISO, .367 wOBA

Weighing all of these factors, Steamer and ZiPS provided intel on how one can view the projections. Steamer's aligns closely with his statistics from the last three years while predicting a decline in his slash lines, especially in batting average but it yields a nice rebound floor. ZiPS took the second half of 2019 through the end of last season results which resonated throughout the whole projection. So, if one believes in the last three years or the recent decline, they can act accordingly with these projection sets.

Taking this one step further, our projection uses the second half of 2019 through 2020 along with his last three years in the per plate appearance numbers for the following potential outcomes based on varied totals since the 2021 season may not be a full one due to many variables:

  • Martinez with 300 plate appearances: 41 runs, 15 home runs, 48 RBI, one stolen base
  • Martinez with 450 plate appearances: 62 runs, 23 home runs, 73 RBI, two stolen bases
  • Martinez with 600 plate appearances: 82 runs, 30 home runs, 97 RBI, three stolen bases

Predicting his average remains a slippery slope but with the numbers above, figure on an average in the .280 range. Just stash in the memory banks over his last 2,092 batted ball events (from 2015 through last season), Martinez owns an xBA of .293, an expected slugging rate of .598, a .404 expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) and a 48.6 hard hit percentage. Given the reduced draft capital to roster Martinez, taking a chance on a bounce back season in 2021 makes sense. If he struggles again, there may not be a mulligan when preparing for 2022.


Statistical Credits:




ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborsk