Spin Doctors: Martin vs. Martinez

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Russell Martin came up just one home run short of a 20-20 season in 2007, his second season with the Dodgers. Victor Martinez is a career .300 hitter who last year established career highs with 40 doubles, 25 homers and 114 RBIs for the Indians. So which player do you draft first? Yahoo! Sports fantasy experts Matt Buser and Andy Behrens take sides, arguing (in 250 words or less) for their favorite:

 

Buser says Behrens says
Let me preface my selection with the likelihood that neither Martin nor Martinez will be on a single roster of mine this season. I’d much rather wait and draft either Geovany Soto or J.R. Towles with one of my late picks than spend a pick somewhere in the third round (based on current ADP’s) on Martin or Martinez.

With that said, I’m taking Martin over Martinez with all other things being equal. They posted nearly identical numbers in terms of overall fantasy impact last season (V-Mart’s season rank was 66, Martin’s 71), with V-Mart getting the edge in run production while Martin had 21 SBs to Martinez’s zero.

It’s real close and my logic is pretty simple. I think the Dodgers’ lineup will be improved, meaning increased R/RBI opportunities for Martin, and I think Joe Torre will do a good job of keeping Martin rested and fresh in what will be his second full season, so we won’t see another significant drop-off in his SB totals after the All-Star break this season.

Understand, I like Martinez as much this season as I have in any other. It’s really not a knock on Martinez, it’s just that I feel Martin’s 5x5 contributions will at least slightly outweigh V-Mart’s. Martinez had the slightest edge last season despite career highs in HR and RBI.

To recap: if you are forced to use a third-round pick on a catcher, make it Martin in a close call over Martinez.

Last year Victor Martinez led all catchers in HRs and RBIs (25 and 114), he was second in batting average (.301) and he was third in runs scored (78).

It was a terrific season, but not unexpectedly good by his standards. Few players at any position are so consistently excellent. He’s hit .300 or better in each of the past three seasons, and he’s hit at least 20 HR in three of four.

Here’s his OPS in each of the last four years: .851, .853, .856, .879.

Perhaps more importantly, here are his games played: 141, 147, 153, 147.

Martinez is reliable, durable, eligible at two positions and he’ll deliver great numbers in three of the five standard categories (HR, RBI and AVG). He also bats cleanup for one of the AL’s better lineups. If he were merely a 1B/OF, you’d still want him on your roster. He’s a significant fantasy asset, without regard to position.

And so is Russell Martin. He was close to Martinez in value last season, thanks mostly to the 21 steals. Martin’s power numbers would’ve been a modest disappointment if Martinez had produced them, but the speed was rare for a catcher.

It was so rare, in fact, that you can’t assume Martin will repeat it. The complete list of catchers who’ve stolen 20 bases in consecutive seasons over the past 100 years is incredibly small – and it includes Craig Biggio, which is kind of cheating. (John Wathan, Jason Kendall … that’s all I’ve got).

Martin is good, but Martinez is simply the better hitter.

Updated Tuesday, Mar 11, 2008