Making the Grade: Ranking Right Fielders in the AL Central

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No. 1: J.D. Martinez, Detroit Tigers

Apr 19, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers right fielder

J.D. Martinez

(28) in the dugout before the game against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Some players are just a product of their environment.

After being cut by the lowly Houston Astros in 2014, J.D. Martinez joined the Tigers and mashed himself to a breakout campaign. Martinez played 123 games with Detroit last season – hitting in an order that already contained Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez – and posted a .315/.358/.553 triple-slash line. He more than doubled his career-high in home runs, clubbing 23 round-trippers and driving in 76 RBIs.

In fewer words: Martinez was the absolute perfect complement to an already dynamic lineup.

Martinez brought impressive power and a steady average to an already potent lineup, finishing the season with a 4.2 WAR – a marked improvement on his -1.6 combined WAR over the previous two seasons.

Still just 27 years old, Martinez has a chance to be a feared hitter in the Tigers’ lineup for years to come. Now hitting in the five-hole behind Cabrera, Martinez bridges the gap perfectly between Cabrera and another Tigers’ acquisition Yoenis Cespedes. He has already spanked five home runs, added 14 RBIs and hit .278 in the first 20 games this season.

Perhaps most impressively, Martinez has demonstrated a natural ability to hit from down in the count. Three of his four home runs this season have come in such situations, and he’s hit .308 so far with two outs.

There is still a dangerously small sample size here with Martinez but, with the amount of talent surrounding him in the lineup, he is going to continue to get pitches he can hit. Expect another impressive campaign for the Tigers’ right-hander.

Next: Ranking the Center Fielders