Jul 5, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers right fielder J.D. Martinez (28) celebrates after hitting a home run in the sixth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
19. J.D. Martinez
March 22, 2014 is a day that J.D. Martinez will never forget. On this day, he was released by the Houston Astros. Two days later, the Detroit Tigers gave him a minor league contract. It was quite clear from the start that Martinez was more than a minor league player.
In 2014, J.D. Martinez cemented his place as a Tiger with strength at the plate. He played in 123 games, hitting .315 with 28 home runs. He went from -0.2 WAR with the Astros to 4.2 with the Tigers. To reach that success, he decided to replicate the swing that made Miguel Cabrera so successful. In side-by-side comparisons, it is easy to see the similarities between these two hitters.
Martinez’s break-out year was 2015. He began the year in a bit of a slump, but recovered to make it to the top ten list of home run hitters for the year finishing with 38 home runs. Those home runs are the third most for an outfielder with the Tigers; Rocky Colavito hit 45 in 1961 and Hank Greenberg hit 41 in 1940. Comparions to Miguel Cabrera and Hank Greenberg are honors that any player would be proud to receive.
In 2015, he scored six RBIs and three home runs against the Yankees, matching a feat Cabrera accomplished two years prior. He also received his first opportunity to play in the All-Star Game. He also earned his first Silver Slugger Award along with Cabrera. Along with that honor, the Baseball Writer’s Association of America in Detroit awarded him Tiger of the Year award for 2015. He was in the running for a Gold Glove, but did not receive that award.