2017 Slash- .309/.379.518, 14HR, 47R, 46RBI, 4SB in 307 AB
2017 xSlash- .327/.395/.554, 15.3 HR
Normally, when I take a deeper dive into a 29-year-old rookie’s breakout season, I expect to detect glaring red flags that point to regression. But, when looking at Jose Martinez’s xSlash compared to the slash he produced in 2017 I was shocked he was predicted to surpass his 2017 numbers. The Cardinals 29-year-old rookie was the breakout that no one saw coming.
When looking at Martinez’s stats, the initial thing that might jump out to a trained eye is his high BABIP. Martinez managed a .350 BABIP in his 307 AB, the 28th highest in the majors. But his xBABIP says Martinez got unlucky and should have run a xBABIP of .370. Players can have the ability to run a higher BABIP based on the quality of contact, and in this case, Martinez’s Average Exit Velocity was 90.6 MPH. His exit velocity was ahead of the likes of Bryce Harper, Jose Abreu, and Carlos Correa.
Another favorite stat of mine called xBACON absolutely loves what Martinez did in 2017. xBACON is the measure of batting average on contact and calculated by using exit velocity and launch angle. We have previously discussed how Martinez shows an ability to hit the ball hard, and his xBACON backed that up being 5th highest in the league at .413. He was sandwiched between elite hitters like Paul Goldschmidt (.414) and Carlos Correa (.404)
While I love Martinez and at this point, you should too, all sleepers have issues that are holding him back from being a higher pick. Mainly, his playing time is the serious concern. The Cardinals seem to have position players everywhere and an especially crowded infield. Martinez will be given a potential opportunity to carve out a role in Spring Training, but it may be a tough ask to have Carpenter move to third and use Gyorko as a utility man. Steamer is only projecting him to get 350 PA in 2018. But, his ADP is very low according to both NFBC early data (276) and Fantrax (300) Martinez can be obtained for a late round flier. If he doesn’t manage to lock down an everyday role, it won’t kill your season.
Jose Martinez possesses everything you could ask for in a hitter. He produced an above average walk rate this year(10.4BB%) all while maintaining an ability to hit for contact and power while maintaining an elevated exit velocity. I would keep an eye on how his spring training goes. If he continues to excel at the plate and (if the cards are right) wins the 1st base job he will be worth the late-round pick.