Mookie Betts won the league-wide MVP award, but the team MVP award could very well belong to superstar slugger JD Martinez. Martinez put together a remarkable season and provided a big bat in the middle of the lineup that this team desperately needed. The Sox slugger is under contract for one more season with Boston before he has the right to opt-out and re-test free agency.
2018 Red Sox Recap: JD Martinez
JD Martinez is perhaps the greatest free agent signing in the history of the Boston Red Sox organization. Seriously, he was that good. Playing in 150 games, Martinez posted a .330/.402/.629 slash line with a 170 wRC+. Martinez hit 43 homers while driving in 130 runs, making soft contact just 10.9% of the time and hitting the ball with power to all three parts of the field.
While Martinez provided significant value with his own bat, perhaps his biggest impact is what he did for the rest of the teams’ offense. Martinez is one of the smartest hitters and baseball and his presence was a big reason for the Red Sox offense coming alive in 2018. While the individual players obviously had a lot to do their own success, Martinez clearly brought a veteran voice the team desperately needed. Just ask Steve Pearce.
“He might tell me to go up there and hit with one foot in the air and I’d probably do it…[h]e’s answering questions that I’ve had for my whole life. Just by looking at my swing.” Pearce said all the way back in July. Martinez clearly affected everyone on the team and was perhaps the biggest factor behind the Red Sox dominant offense.
Offensively, JD Martinez was as close to perfect as humanly possible. However, he’s not a completely rounded player. He’s a master with the bat, but he’s blow=average both on the bases and in the field. Martinez spent most of his time at designated hitter but still played 493 innings in the outfield. Despite that small sample size, Martinez put up an ugly -4.6 UZR/150, a far below average number.
Additionally, Martinez provided no value on the basepaths. Martinez stole just six bases and finished the year with a -4.1 BsR, which isn’t very good. Overall though, who cares about what Martinez did on the bases or in the field. Martinez was brought in for his bat and anything else he provided was just extra. This would be like complaining that David Ortiz wasn’t making enough of an impact on the bases.
Looking Into 2019
J.D. Martinez has been one of the best sluggers in baseball ever since 2014, and there’s no reason to expect that to change. Martinez will remain the best power bat in a lineup stocked full of them. It’s crazy to expect Martinez to be this good for a second-straight year, but his track record shows that he’s just this good.
If there’s one area due for negative regression, it’s his batted ball luck. Martinez finished 2018 with a .375 BABIP, which is significantly higher than his career average of .347. This will regress to the mean in 2019, so some of his hard-hit doubles and singles might just so happen to land in opponents gloves.
However, batted ball luck doesn’t play any role in home runs, and Martinez should continue his rampant home run pace. Look for Martinez to do more of the same in 2019 and find himself once more in the MVP running.