Diamondbacks right fielder J.D. Martinez has been one of majors’ top offensive players over the past few years, but his 2014 breakout wouldn’t have come if not for Los Angeles-based hitting coaches Craig Wallenbrock and Robert Van Scoyoc, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic details. When Martinez first visited the duo four years ago, his swing “was pretty terrible, to be honest,” according to Van Scoyoc. Added Wallenbrock, “We probably made more drastic changes with him than we did with anybody.” Martinez began working diligently with the pair after the 2013 season (before the Astros released him in March 2014), and the fly ball-first approach they preach has paid enormous dividends. As an Astro from 2011-13, Martinez hit .251/.300/.387 with 24 home runs and a 33.3 percent fly ball rate in 975 trips to the plate. Since then, Martinez has combined for 2,143 plate appearances with the Tigers and D-backs and slashed .300/.362/.574 with 128 HRs and a 40.1 percent fly ball rate. The 30-year-old currently stands as one of the game’s premier free agents-to-be, and realizes he wouldn’t be where he is without Wallenbrock and Van Scoyoc. “I am who I am because of them,” Martinez said.
More from the National League:
- The Cardinals are in search of power, something third baseman Jedd Gyorko provided both last year and this season, but it’s possible he’ll be on another roster in 2018, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. While Gyorko has hit a team-high 50 home runs since 2016 (20 this year) and, in manager Mike Matheny’s words, “played a phenomenal third base,” the Cardinals could shop him if they make changes at his position or elsewhere in in the infield. Gyorko, who’s controllable through 2020 at reasonable costs, wants to stay where he is. “I would love to be here, but who knows?” he said. “If I could spend the rest of my career here that would be great. I can’t see any reason why you wouldn’t want to play here.”
- Elsewhere in the Cardinals’ infield, the presence of power-hitting shortstop Paul DeJong gives them a leg up on most teams, Benjamin Hochman of the Post-Dispatch argues. Of the top eight shortstops in home runs this year, five ended up in the postseason, Hochman points out. The 24-year-old DeJong was one of the three who didn’t, but the rookie still posted outstanding production with 25 long balls – good for second at his position – to go with a .285/.325/.532 line and a .247 ISO over 443 PAs. But DeJong’s output did come with some good fortune – with 124 strikeouts against 21 unintentional walks, he logged one of the worst ratios in the game. Further, according to Statcast (via Baseball Savant), DeJong’s expected weighted on-base average (.323) lagged far behind his actual wOBA (.365). Sill, Hochman expects DeJong to be the answer for the Cards at short, a position Aledmys Diaz couldn’t lock down this season after unexpectedly bursting on the scene as a rookie in 2016.
- In a decision that raised eyebrows at the time, outfielder Jayson Werth left the contending Phillies for the upstart Nationals’ seven-year, $126MM offer in December 2010. The Nationals have turned into a winning organization since then, in part because of Werth, Nats GM Mike Rizzo told Mark Bowman of MLB.com. “I brought him here to shape us as a championship-caliber franchise,” Rizzo said. “Slowly, we’ve kind of morphed into a very professional organization. We have a protocol and a process. He has been an instrumental factor in getting us where we’re at.” Werth’s production has been a mixed bag in D.C., but the club “got everything we intended to get out of” signing him, Rizzo contends. Werth, meanwhile, is “proud” of the “first-class organization” the Nats have become during his seven-year run, and he’s content to “leave this organization in a better state than when I arrived.”