Detroit Tigers Player Profile: Victor Martinez

Victor Martinez could be the key to all of the Detroit Tigers fortunes on offense.

Mar 3, 2016; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez (41) bats during the fourth inning of a spring training baseball game against the Detroit Tigers at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Victor Martinez was probably the biggest disappointment to Tigers fans in 2016. The left-handed designated hitter struggled through lower body injuries all year after the Tigers signed the then 36-year-old to a 4-year, $68 million deal following his runner-up AL MVP season of 2014.

Martinez has the ability to hit for average and power, as evidenced by his .335 average, 32 home run and 103 RBI season of 2014. His numbers dipped decidedly in 2015 (.245, 11 HRs), the injuries piled up, and Tigers fans were left wondering if there was anything left in the tank.

With very few updates about Martinez from the Tigers front office, fans were left wondering all winter long what Victor Martinez would show up to Spring Training. The news from the front office was always positive, but rarely provided anything in the way of details.

Spring Training start

Martinez has gotten off to a nice start this spring, showing off his bat speed and ability to drive the ball with his healthy legs.

The only question is: Can it last?

The outlook

While it’s encouraging to see Martinez looking healthy and not at all like the old man that could barely round first base last season, there’s still a lot he has to prove. Mostly, that his body can make it through a whole season unscathed. 

The addition of Justin Upton to the lineup, along with the emergence of J.D. Martinez as one of the game’s best new hitters, takes a bit of pressure off of Martinez. The fact still remains that the Tigers need him to drive in runners, as the plate is sure to be set for him on many occasions.

And you know what? If he’s healthy, he’s going to at least hit for average. And really, that’s all the Tigers need from him. His 32 home runs in 2014 were a career high, and he’s not a classic power hitter. He doesn’t need to be that guy. There’s going to be production all around him in the middle of this lineup. All he has to do is bring it home.

Fans shouldn’t be looking for Martinez to hit 32 home runs again, but asking him to hit .300 or better shouldn’t be asking too much. If he can do that, I see no reason why Martinez can’t tally 100+ RBIs given all the guys that are going to be on base in front of him.

Bottom line

Martinez is basically the epitome of what this Tigers team is as a whole entering the 2016 season: We just don’t know what we’re going to get.

On the optimistic side, Martinez could explode out the gates and once again become one of the best hitters in the game.

On the other hand, there is reason to believe that his time as an elite player has passed; much like most pundits believe the Tigers time as a World Series contender has passed. This season holds so many “what ifs” for Martinez and the Tigers. I have a feeling we’ll know where both stand by the time June rolls around.