Sometimes a bit of sunshine and a new environment is all one needs to regain their swagger. Newest Los Angeles Dodgers slugger J.D. Martinez certainly hopes this is true. The former Boston Red Sox All-Star is coming off sort of a "down" season.
The 35-year old hit .274 and recorded a career-high 43 doubles, but failed to match the typical power benchmarks that have made him a feared bat in years past. Martinez only hit 16 home runs, which was his lowest full-season total since 2012 season, when he had only 11 dingers as a member of the Houston Astros.
Martinez's slugging and on-base percentages also took a hit. The casual observer may say that the three-time silver slugger award winner is clearly on the decline, but Dodgers fans may want to pause before writing off the vet.
Fangraphs currently projects Martinez to hit for more power (and isolated power) in 2023. The Miami native, per the publication, is slated for 21 homers next year.
From a purely philosophical perspective, this seems like a logical next step. LA hit the fifth-most home runs in baseball last season, which means they very much value the long ball as an integral part of their identity. If the front office sees Martinez as a means to that end, they must also believe he still has something left in the tank.
Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic recently revealed what Martinez’s agent, Scott Boras, had to say about the veteran's choice to join the Dodgers:
"“(Dodgers president of baseball operations) Andrew Friedman and Mookie were like college coaches seeking the big recruit,” Boras said. “J.D. was fully aware of the recent signings and took $6 million to $7 million below his value. “He wanted to win and he wanted to (optimize his ability). He felt the Dodgers were the best team to help him achieve those goals. He made them fully aware he has every intention to play well and seek his true value in the seasons ahead.”"- Scott Boras, via Ken Rosenthal
Rosenthal also mentioned that LA hitting coach, Robert Van Scoyoc, was the one who helped Martinez rework his swing after the 2013 season. Given the facts at hand, it's clear Martinez will be comfortable in LA. Betts is well aware of the kind of player Martinez can be, and the level of commitment he brings to the table (the two won a championship together, after all). Martinez is a student of the game. He’s been known to watch game film and make careful adjustments to his approach at the plate. If he and Van Scoyoc can once again collaborate and make a few tweaks, the five-time All-Star could experience some deja vu.
The change of scenery, combined with a hint of familiarity, could be just what the doctor ordered for JD Martinez.