I was listening to the Dear Mr. Fantasy podcast yesterday with guest Eno Sarris of Fangraphs.com, and he ran through the list of catchers who have had multiple good fantasy seasons after the age of 31. While “good” was never statistically defined, it included the usual suspects: Mike Piazza, Jorge Posada, maybe Ivan Rodriguez, and I’m probably forgetting one or two. Regardless, the list was short.
Victor Martinez is 34 years old, and the last time we saw him he was 32 years old. He spent his age-33 season recovering from unexpected knee surgery after tearing his ACL last January. I’m not concerned about Martinez’s age at all.
He’s on the older side, but he’ll be a DH this year. Alex Avila is Detroit’s every day catcher, and he’s pretty good. He’s not great, but at the very least he’s good enough to be a starting catcher on a World Series team. Martinez was an every day catcher in 2010 with Boston, playing 110 games behind the plate, but in 2011 with Detroit he donned the protective gear just 26 times all year. While the home run power was down that year, Martinez still slugged his was to a .330 average and 103 RBI.
For whatever reason — maybe he’s cut down on his swing? — Martinez has posted the two best strikeout rates of his career in his last two seasons, and last year (well, 2011) he finished with a line drive rate of 24.2%, the eighth-best rate in the league and Martinez’s personal best. Obviously we’ll have to see what kind of impact missing a year of baseball has for a guy with a lot of wear on his knees, but Martinez has proven to be a great hitter (and not just by catcher standards) so I have faith in him to keep mashing in 2013.
At a Glance
Strengths: RBI, BA, OBP, SLG, OPS
Neutral: R, HR
Best-case scenario: a little behind Buster Posey (SF)
Likely scenario: Joe Mauer (MIN), Miguel Montero (ARI), Nick Markakis (BAL)
Worst-case scenario: Salvador Perez (KC)
Victor Martinez 2013 Fantasy Projection
Feel free to label me a conservative projector, but I don’t like simply carrying over career-best rates for players outside their prime just because that’s what they did most recently. Odd things happen all the time in baseball, and sometimes the results of a six-month fantasy season are nothing more than anomalies due to small sample size (and yes, sometimes a six-month season is a small sample size, albeit a larger small sample size).
I don’t expect Martinez to keep hitting line drives a quarter of the time, and that’s why I don’t expect him to keep hitting well over .300. He’s a balanced hitter, one of the best in the game, but he’s aging and probably losing a little pop in his bat and almost definitely losing whatever speed he had in those legs (especially coming off knee surgery). In 2011 he batted .331 on the strength of a .343 BABIP. I don’t think we’ll see him approach that this year. All-in-all, we’re going with a .291 average from Detroit’s DH.
I do believe he has more power than he displayed in 2011, though not a ton more. I think V-Mart maxes out around 18-20 homers, but hitting purely as a DH and not as a catcher will help him reach the upper end of his home run range.
Batting fifth for the Tigers behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder will be a bonus, too, as he’ll come to bat with one of them on second a lot of the time, and both are extremely high OBP players. A 100-RBI season is in play, and all told Martinez has the potential to put up a .310-20-100 season. For a player with catcher eligibility, that’s huge.
The injury doesn’t worry me at all, and considering Martinez’s ADP is 108.0 right now, I’d say it’s sort of on the minds of drafters. He’s easily been a top-100 player for the last several seasons, and I see that run of success continuing in 2013.