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J.D. Martinez Rankings Debate: Comparing RotoBaller's Rankers


RotoBaller's expert writers have come up with our consensus rankings for mixed leagues, but that doesn't mean we agreed on everything. In this space, we'll hear from rankers with the biggest differences of opinion on a well-known player and have them defend their position against each other.

We continue our series of rankings debates with a look at one of the league's top sluggers, who also happens to currently be unemployed.

Jeff Kahntroff will vouch for free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez as a first-round selection, while Harris Yudin explains why he is a little more bearish on Martinez's value. Let's get ready to rumble!

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2018 Draft Rankings Debate - J.D. Martinez

Rank Tier Player Position Kyle Nick Pierre Jeff Harris Bill
21 2 J.D. Martinez OF 25 24 20 12 26 20

 

Jeff Kahntroff's Ranking: #12 overall

In the four years since he joined Detroit, Martinez has a 162-game average of .300/40/95/110/5. And he has upside. Last year, in 119 games, he posted a line of .303/45/85/104/4. Despite missing over 40 games, he still finished as the 18th-ranked 5x5 player last year. 

Those numbers produced an astonishing, 162-game pace of .303/61/116/142/5, which would have beaten the third- and fourth-ranked players: Giancarlo Stanton (.289/59/123/132/2) and Aaron Judge (.284/52/128/114/9). He is only 30 years old, and he likely will move a more hitter-friendly park than Comerica Park (and we saw what he did in Arizona).

Not only does Martinez have the upside, but he has more of a track record than Judge and has been more consistent than Stanton. Harris ranked Stanton 11th and Judge 16th, but Martinez is only 26th? Why? Martinez had injuries that are not necessarily likely to repeat, and Stanton has more of an injury history. While Stanton will be moving to a much better stadium, the park effects required for this disparity would be the likes of which we have never before seen (other than Coors Field). As for Judge, he has had one successful season, has massive strikeout issues, and will not be experiencing a ballpark upgrade.

Martinez is one of the elite hitters, and as the foregoing shows, he belongs where I have him despite his injuries the past two years. Even with a significant injury last year that caused him to miss over 40 games, he finished eight spots ahead of where Harris ranked him. His 162-game pace has the upside of a top-three player. Plus, he has been consistent when healthy. Balancing all these factors, a ranking of 12th is appropriate for Martinez. In fact, I would have Martinez ranked even higher were I not concerned about the possible struggle of switching to full-time DH.

 

Harris Yudin's Ranking: #26 overall

J.D. Martinez was a monster last season. There’s no denying it. There’s even a lot to like about the possibility of him replicating that 2017 success-- the .327 BABIP that was 51 points lower than in 2016, the absurd 49.0 percent hard hit rate, the career-best 10.8 percent walk rate. That said, there’s just as much about which to be skeptical.

Martinez is 30 years old and has played at least 125 games just once-- in 2013, the only season with the Tigers in which he didn’t hit .300. On its own, this isn’t a deal-breaker. After all, Bryce Harper (No. 3 overall in my rankings) has played just 14 more games over the last three years, and Giancarlo Stanton (No. 11) has played 45 fewer games. Since Jeff brought it up, Stanton has been at least as productive as Martinez in almost 200 fewer plate appearances over that span, is two years younger, and has played at least 145 games three times in his career (including 2017).

For me, the problem arises when you couple Martinez’s health issues with a few eye-popping statistics from a year ago.

Good Luck Repeating Those Numbers

Among qualified hitters, Martinez’s hard hit rate was the highest ever recorded by someone not named Ryan Howard or Giancarlo Stanton. He also posted a 48.3 percent opposite field hard hit rate. That number is utterly unsustainable-- it’s easily the highest mark since batted ball data started being collected in 2002. Only Howard, Joe Mauer and Christian Yelich have even sniffed that number.

You shouldn’t need to look at Martinez’s batted ball profile to assume that when he hits more fly balls (2015, ‘17), he hits more home runs (33.8 HR/FB last year). And with the recent fly ball revolution -- and potentially juiced baseballs -- Martinez’s home run rate isn’t going to deflate too much. However, prior to 2017, just seven players had managed a 33.0 HR/FB rate across at least 150 plate appearances. Only two of those guys -- Howard and Jim Thome -- sustained anything close to that level in following years.

Stanton, Howard and Thome are arguably the most feared power hitters of the last 20 seasons, and each one already had an extensive track record of crushing baseballs with a high launch angle. Martinez (.483 SLG, 16.5 HR/FB heading into last season) does not belong in that category.

On the other hand, his .494 career opposite field wOBA actually puts him ahead of both Yelich and Mauer -- it’s the best mark among active players (min. 500 PA). In terms of spraying the ball across the field, Martinez has essentially become a power-hitting version of Yelich, which is awesome. But if the home run total drops back into the 30s, his stat line becomes much more Marcell Ozuna than Giancarlo Stanton (to stick with the theme of former Marlins outfielders).

Lastly, contrary to what Jeff claims, Martinez will likely be moving to a less hitter-friendly park. Chase Field and Comerica Park are both much more favorable than, say, Fenway. In fact, Comerica is among the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball for right-handed hitters.

I’ll admit I expected to find more of an argument for a 2018 regression, and I very well might bump Martinez up a few spots. But a first rounder? No thank you. That perception could change if he were to land in Colorado -- but for now, using a top-18 pick on Martinez should be considered a reach. There’s a reason his ADP sits outside the top 24 and none of the other Rotoballer rankers had him higher than 20.

 

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