By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT – In the month of June, few hitters have been hotter than 26-year-old Detroit Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez.
By this point, most have become accustomed to regular blockbuster performances by Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, but the younger Martinez has put on an impressive show as he continues to make a strong push to become a regular in Detroit’s lineup.
In 36 games for the Tigers, Martinez has a batting average of .310 and has smacked seven homers and batted in 27 runs. With runners in scoring position, Martinez is hitting .385 with two doubles and three home runs.
Martinez has only performed better as he has gotten more opportunities. In the six-plus games since Martinez replaced Hunter in right field, Martinez has hit .444 with three doubles, four home runs and 11 RBI.
His slugging percentage in that short sample size is a sky-high 1.000, meaning the 26-year-old has been averaging one base per at bat in that span, a stretch that has coincided with Detroit ending its big losing skid and winning four straight.
The Houston Astros released Martinez in spring training, and after the Tigers signed Martinez to a minor-league contract, the outfielder hit 10 home runs in 17 games for Triple-A Toledo. Since then, he has proved that his power translates to the bit leagues.
With the departure of slugger Prince Fielder this offseason, there was some doubt about what kind of power the Detroit lineup would be able to muster. Manager Brad Ausmus said earlier in the season that the team did not have a prototypical five-hole hitter. More recently, Ausmus has admitted that Martinez could be that missing piece.
For Hunter, who was originally expected back for the weekend series against the Cleveland Indians but ended up remaining on the bench, and for the other Detroit outfielders, Martinez’s emergence may mean one of them is soon out of a job. If Martinez keeps hitting like he has recently, however, bumping a player to make room for Martinez will be well worth the price.