Thursday, June 26, 2014

Did the Astros Make a Mistake with J.D. Martinez

J.D. Martinez is on quite a hot streak right now, and has his current line up to .320/.356/.648. Needless to say, that's a bit better than the Astros current left field production. Did the Astros blow it? Well, from a results standpoint, it seems like they did. But, as I have argued before, while they obviously hope that the results work out in their favor, no GM can predict the future.  The proper question is whether they made the right decision at the time, based on the information they had.

It's easy to remember the promise of J.D. Martinez. At a time when the farm system was barren, Martinez and Altuve were bright lights. In 2011, the team needed help, and Martinez and Altuve were both called up straight from AA. Martinez had a solid debut, hitting .293/.328/.509 in his first 30 games. Thing is, he never really got back there. He slumped the rest of 2011, and was abysmal in 2012 and 2013.

It is difficult to overstate how bad he was that last two years. His combined line of .245/.295/.376, combined with close to league worst defense, resulted in -1.8 WAR for those two years total, placing him in the bottom 10 in the majors for that period. He was the worst player on a very bad team in 2013, as his walk rate plummeted to 3%, his k rate went up to 26% and he continued to demonstrate almost no power.

When J.D. was released, Luhnow said he was a victim of the Astros success. That seems odd now, with the Astros getting no production out of Grossman/Hoes, but looking at the end of the 2013 season, its easy to see why he said that. LJ Hoes and Robbie Grossman both performed well enough at the end of the 2013 season to deserve extended chances, Springer was on his way, and Dexter Fowler had been acquired via trade. That doesn't even include Domingo Santana, Preston Tucker, DDJ, Austin Wates, all of whom were getting closer. And there was nothing in his previous 2 years of playing that indicated J.D. should get the nod over any of them. J.D.'s reduced stock was illustrated when he was not protected by the Rule 5 draft, and was not chosen, and was not claimed on waivers.

Again, it looks like a mistake, now. All the talk of J.D. retooling his swing this offseason seems like it is paying off.  Hoes and Grossman have both regressed. I still like J.D., and if this turn around is legit, I will be thrilled for him. But I won't be upset at the front office. These things happen. Happened to the Rangers with Chris Davis. Happened to the Pirates with Jose Bautista. Hopefully, Domingo Santana will make us forget all about it soon.