London Series preview: Designated hitter

One of the greatest rivalries in sport crosses the Atlantic to be fought out over two games at the end of June when the New York Yankees take on the Boston Red Sox in London. The Bat Flips and Nerds player previews continue with the ultimate power sluggers, the designated hitters.

DESIGNATED HITTER

J.D. Martinez

  • Team: Boston Red Sox
  • Height: 190cm (6’ 3”)
  • Age: 31
  • Bats: Right-handed
  • From: Florida, USA
  • 2019 salary: $23.75 million (signed a five-year, $110 million deal for 2018-22)

The story of Julio Daniel Martinez’s rise to superstardom is the stuff of fairy tales. Selected by the Houston Astros with the 611th pick of the 2009 draft, the chances of making it as a major leaguer were negligible.

Against the odds, JD made The Show as a 23-year-old, but after 24 home runs in three years of erratic playing time, he was released by the Astros.

A couple of days later he signed for the Detroit Tigers and, with a tweak to his swing, the legend of JD Martinez the slugger began.

In his first three seasons in Detroit, Martinez averaged 28 homers with 82 RBI and .299 AVG. Not bad for a player picked up off of the scrap heap.

Then, in 2017 he took yet another step forward to become one of the most feared hitters on the planet. He launched 45 home runs with 104 RBI and .303 AVG in just 119 games split between the Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks.

The best free agent in that year’s offseason was signed to a five-year, $110 million contract by the Boston Red Sox and he has been nothing less than spectacular.

Last season, he hit 43 homers and led the league with 130 RBI to become the first player in history to win two Silver Slugger awards in the same season, one for outfield and one for DH.

Finding a worthy replacement for Red Sox iconic DH, Big Papi, was never going to be easy, but JD is as close to a clutch-slugger like David Ortiz as there is in the game. Since the start of 2017, Martinez and Oakland Athletics’ Khris Davis are the only players with 100 home runs. The London crowd will see one of today’s greatest sluggers in his prime.

 

Giancarlo Stanton

  • Team: New York Yankees
  • Height: 198cm (6’ 6”)
  • Age: 29
  • Bats: Right-handed
  • From: California, USA
  • 2019 salary: $26 million (signed a 13-year, $325 million deal for 2015-27)

Big powerful sluggers are susceptible to injury, and Giancarlo Stanton has spent most of the season on the injured list. He was initially slowed by a biceps strain and then a shoulder strain and then calf tightness. The good news is that the 29-year-old is back in the lineup and will make the trip to London.

Signed to a 13-year, $325 million deal by the Miami Marlins back in 2015, Stanton is the highest-paid player on the Yankees books but doesn’t even feature in the top-10 MLB earners in 2019. A list that is surprisingly topped by Washington Nationals’ starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg who is earning over $38 million this season.

Stanton has produced at an emphatic level since reaching the majors. In fact, only eight active players have more than 300 home runs to their name and Stanton, still in his 20s, is easily the youngest of the group.

Surprisingly, with a name like Giancarlo, the slugger does not have Italian heritage. Instead, he is proudly a blend of Irish, American and Puerto Rican. He made his way through school and then the minors under the name “Mike Stanton” but switched back to his birth name of Giancarlo in 2012.

Former Marlins catcher John Buck commented:

“I told him he needs to have longer hair. When I think of Giancarlo, I think of someone with long, flowing hair, like Fabio. But if he keeps hitting homers, I’ll call him whatever he wants me to call him.”

But the question remains “Who’s Fabio?

Hopefully Stanton can regain his form in time for the London Series so that European fans can see a Stantonian blast from one of the true greats of the modern era.

There is no doubt that Stanton’s presence in the lineup dramatically increases the potency of the Yankees, but so does the recent addition of veteran slugger Edwin Encarnacion.

 

Edwin Encarnacion

  • Team: New York Yankees
  • Height: 185cm (6’ 1”)
  • Age: 36
  • Bats: Right-handed
  • From: Dominican Republic
  • 2019 salary: $20 million (this is the final year of a 3-year, $60 million deal)

Edwin Encarnacion, one of the most productive hitters over the last 10 years, was acquired by New York in a trade on June 15 just after launching his 400th career home run.

With Luke Voit, Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge all likely to require some time at designated hitter, it seemed like the last thing the Yankees needed was another defensively-limited slugger, but perhaps this is a shrewd move.

Thoughts that the 36-year-old would decline into irrelevancy in Seattle were dispelled with a sensational start to the season in which Encarnacion led (and still leads) the AL in home runs.

Since 2012, the veteran slugger tops MLB with 267 home runs and 817 RBI. He is another modern-day superstar who we will see in action in London.

But it is not just quantity in which Encarnacion excels; it is the consistency as well. He has hit at least 32 homers with 98 RBI in each of the last seven seasons, which even includes 2014 when injury cut his campaign short.

Watch out for his “walking the parrot” celebration if he goes deep. Apparently, the home run trot stems from an incident in 2012 when Encarnacion was trying to keep balance after stumbling rounding first base. He was persuaded by Blue Jays’ teammates in the dugout that “it looked cool, and he needed to do it again.”

 

Keep an eye out for the rest of our player profiles and make sure you follow @BatFlips_Nerds on Twitter to keep up-to-date with all of the latest London Series news.

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