In what seemed like an insignificant trade back in May 2016, the St. Louis Cardinals acquired minor league outfielder Jose Martinez from the Royals for cash considerations. Martinez had been in the Minor Leagues for 10 years and was 27 years old at that point. He had won a Minor League Batting Title in 2015 with the Kansas City organization, but beyond that had very little fanfare. Little did Cardinal fans know at the time Jose Martinez would become a vital piece of the 2017 Cardinals roster.
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Jose Martinez went on to bat .269 for Memphis in 2016, hardly worth noting. Martinez did hit over .400 in a 12 game cup of coffee with the Big League club in September. He got the opportunity to win a bench spot in 2017 and ran with it. Martinez is a low ball hitter who hits the ball with authority, as shown by these charts. His hard contact rate was a solid 40.7% for the season.
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In 106 games for the Cardinals in 2017, Martinez batted .309 with 14 home runs and 46 RBI. Martinez was especially valuable down the stretch, hitting .333 in the 2nd half and .353 in September. His walk to strikeout ratio was a little better than 1:2. Matheny used him often at first base and as a pinch hitter during the regular season and Martinez produced. Martinez essentially forced Gyorko out of an everyday role and shifted Matt Carpenter off of first base and over to third, as Martinez played 33 games at first. If the Cardinals do not go out and sign someone like Hosmer, Martinez may very well start out as the everyday first baseman for the Cardinals. However, Martinez is more valuable off the bench as he does have weaknesses in his swing.
As you can clearly see from the charts above, Martinez only had 10 hits at the top or above the strike zone. Playing every day could leave him more vulnerable to pitchers, as they would see him more often and adjust.
The league will adjust to Martinez going into 2018, that is without question. Martinez is a smart contact hitter and should be able to adjust along with the league. He could serve a vital role in a club whose direction is up in the air for 2018. Not bad for a guy who was traded for cash two seasons ago.
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