Fantasy Baseball: What Can We Expect From Victor Martinez in 2017?
Welcome, fantasy baseball enthusiasts. Please, follow me to your seats. Would you care to sample the fine wine of the upcoming 2017 season? It comes by way of Victor Martinez from the Detroit Tigers. This 38-year-old is a full-bodied switch-hitter that packs crisp power and finishes with a pretty high batting average.
You’ll recall that last year, the quality coming from the veteran vineyards were magnificent.
At age 40, David Ortiz went into retirement hitting .315 with 38 home runs. Adrian Beltre turns 38 after exceeding the 30-homer plateau. Like Martinez, Carlos Beltran is also a switch-hitter, and at age 39, he hit .295 with nearly 30 home runs and 100 RBI.
The Streamer projection system has Martinez yielding 20 homers, 69 runs, 78 RBI, and a .281 average. They are also docking him 20 games -- in other words, nearly 13 percent -- from the 154 he played in 2016. Assuming he stays healthy while mostly being a designated hitter, we should feel comfortable taking the over on all of those counting stats, plus a batting average that could very reasonably go four or five points higher.
Martinez is only a few years removed from a season in which he finished as the 2014 AL MVP runner-up. In that age-35 campaign, Martinez hit 32 homers and drove in 103 runs with a .335 average. The end of his 2015 follow-up was disrupted by injury, but last year, at age 37, he posted a career-high 38.8 percent hard-hit rate, enabling him to tally 27 home runs and 86 RBI with a .289 batting average.
Last year’s 14.8 percent strikeout rate was not just a career high for Martinez, but a full four points above his career average. Seeing an older player suddenly striking out more frequently can be a legitimate concern. However, V-Mart was still well below the league average strikeout rate, which was at an all-time high (21.1 percent).
He was still able to get his walks, too -- his 8.2 percent rate in this department matched the league average and just missed his career rate by a single point.
On Busted Knee
Thanks to extensive mileage on his left knee, a slothful Martinez could very well be the worst baserunner in the history of baseball.
This began when he tore his left ACL while training in the offseason, which forced him to miss all of 2012. While his return the following year matched his current career batting average (.301), the power was missing after hitting just 14 homers. But then came those 2014 fireworks where he lead all of baseball with a .974 OPS.
His production took a major drop during the second half of 2015, not long after left knee inflammation cost Martinez nearly a month of action. He owned a .272 average with a .745 OPS on July 1 of that season, which spanned 59 games, but hit a mere .220 over his final 61.
That was uncharacteristic enough, but it was joined by drastic platoon splits.
The switch-hitter has a lifetime .306 average against left-handed pitching (.859 OPS) to go along with a .298 clip against righties (.822 OPS). It was the complete opposite during 2015, though, where he clobbered lefties (.348 average) and struggled mightily against righties (.219).
But should we worry about the sports hernia surgery he had last October? Not at the moment since all appears to be going very well at the start of camp. In addition to being seen taking ground balls at first base, Martinez homered against the Houston Astros on February 25 and made his fourth consecutive Spring Training start the following day.
Detroit Rock City
Despite a number of offseason trade rumors, Detroit elected to keep their core of established veterans together. In addition to having Miguel Cabrera and Ian Kinsler each coming off strong campaigns, the Tigers are hoping to get full seasons out of two other important pieces.
Nick Castellanos saw his chances of breakout season be halted by a fractured left hand that cost him 46 games, while a fractured right elbow put J.D. Martinez on the shelf for 40 games. There’s also the enigmatic Justin Upton, who matched a career-high 31 home runs last year despite his lowest OPS (.775) since becoming an everyday player. All in all, it’s a potentially dangerous lineup that runs six deep with the elder Martinez somewhere in the middle of it.
Expect his average draft position (ADP) to vary a great deal, which can be supported by looking at the early bits of information we have so far. NFBC has his ADP at 235.33, but he's also being taken as early as the 176th overall pick. On Yahoo -- where Martinez also has first base eligibility -- his average cost is commensurate to the high end of the designated hitter-only NFBC at pick 180. ESPN doesn’t have ADP available yet, but he's their 89th projected hitter.
This variability will create a moving target on draft day. What remains constant are his age and injury concerns, which creates buy-low opportunities on veteran players in fantasy baseball. Martinez is a very shrewd value to uncork well into the double-digit rounds of drafts because he's a middle-of-the-order bat that always has the platoon advantage at a non-superstar price.
That's someone definitely worth keeping on your radar.