Despite being regarded as the second best hitter on the St. Louis Cardinals for the past two seasons, Jose Martinez has been the subject of trade talks this offseason. Now that it seems like he will be on the team come Opening Day, what will Martinez’s 2019 look like?
Jose Martinez has been a .300+ hitter for the past two seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals in his two seasons at the major league level, yet he spent this offseason listening to trade rumors and speculation of about his role being in a perpetual flux following the addition of Paul Goldschmidt.
Now, he is going to spend the start of Opening Day 2019 on the bench in favor of Dexter Fowler, who was probably on the opposite end of the spectrum if we are talking about production in 2018.
As you all know, the biggest reason why Martinez will not be the starting right fielder for the Redbirds to start 2019 is due to his defensive deficiencies. Honestly, he is probably the worst defensive first baseman I have ever seen, and I’m sure that doesn’t translate into stellar outfield defense.
Unfortunately, the inconsistency in his playing time has some adverse effects on his ZiPS projections.
This would be a pretty significant regression, despite his home run rate rising. I personally don’t see him having that kind of success slugging, as he really is more of a contact hitter than anything.
That being said, I think he will still sit in the .290’s this season because I don’t think that he will have much issue with his inconsistent playing time. Despite a small sample size, Martinez has done well in the most inconsistent position of all: pinch hitter.
While his .235 average with no extra base hits or walks in 2018 as a pinch hitter was somewhat disappointing, he only had 17 appearances pinch hitting. However, when you look at the 38 plate appearances prior to that, Martinez hit .500/.575/.791 during that time.
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Obviously those numbers are a bit inflated and the sample size is small, but it’s enough for me to feel a little bit better about Martinez’s inconsistent time. He can platoon with Dexter Fowler and Tyler O’Neill while being an effective late inning offensive option on his off days. John Mozeliak has said that he could see Martinez as an everyday player, so we should expect to see him often.
What does concern me though is the fact that he has a low swing rate on pitches outside of the zone at just 27.3%, yet he has a low walk rate. This is a glaring red flag, and who knows how much longer Martinez can keep it up. Hopefully, limiting Martinez’s time will be a blessing for him.
My Projection: .291/.345/.428, 10 HR, 7.89% BB%, 17.1% K%, 1.1 WAR
Jose Martinez has the potential to make the St. Louis Cardinals one of the deepest teams in the league. If he can keep up his solid and consistent performance as a pinch hitter, he will be arguably the best bench player in the majors.