Fantasy Baseball Face-Off: J.D. Martinez or Kris Bryant?

Roto Arcade

Can J.D Martinez duplicate his insane 2017 stats? (AP)

Fantasy baseball. It’s a game of opinions, a game of debates, sometimes even a game of arguments. On today’s program, D3 and Pianow debate the merits of J.D. Martinez vs. Kris Bryant. Let’s play the feud.

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Dalton Moons over Martinez: J.D. Martinez may not have the pedigree Kris Bryant does, but he’s clearly established himself as one of baseball’s best hitters. No one hit more homers per at-bat or had a higher slugging percentage (.690) than Martinez last season, when his average exit velocity ranked in the top-15, and his Barrels/PA ranked No. 2. Rest assured this is no small sample of elite hitting, as since 2014, JDM’s wRC+ (148) is tied with Bryce Harper for fourth-best in baseball, behind only Giancarlo Stanton, Joey Votto and Mike Trout. Martinez has had past durability issues, but playing primarily DH should help keep him healthy.

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It’s true Martinez went especially bonkers at hitter-friendly Chase Field after getting traded to Arizona last year, where he posted a .373/.448/.891 line over 110 at bats, but his power translates anywhere, and Fenway Park has boosted run scoring nearly as much as Chase Field over the last three seasons.

Bryant is obviously a very good player, coming off a season in which he hit .295 with 29 homers and 73 RBI. Martinez, meanwhile, hit .306 with 31 homers and 73 RBI last year — after the All-Star break! No one expects that pace again (although it’s fun to extrapolate those numbers over 600 ABs, which would result in a .306-120-76-176 line that would likely qualify as a profit), but Martinez presents the nice combination of being one of the league’s truly elite hitters in his prime while also in an ideal situation hitting in the middle of a loaded lineup and with the benefit of a hitters’ park and the DH, so take him over Bryant with confidence.

You’ll get high-5s after a Kris Bryant selection. (AP/Matt York)
You’ll get high-5s after a Kris Bryant selection. (AP/Matt York)

Pianow Backs Bryant: Like most pundits, I’m expecting a big year from Martinez. And as a Red Sox fan, I hope he crushes it, launches balls over the Monster with regularity. He’ll have to adjust to life as a regular DH — sometimes that messes with a player’s flow — but life in Fenway Park is usually dreamy for an offensive player.

Bryant’s floor is more appealing to me. He’s four years younger than Martinez, and he’s been more durable — essentially playing three full seasons in a row. Martinez has encountered physical problems in three of the last four years, and even his Boston deal was held up by some injury language. It’s not that I’m in a panic over JDM’s physical outlook, but betting on a younger player is a reassuring thing — especially with these early-round selections.

Bryant offers more positional utility (3B/OF), will chip in on the bases, walks more often. Martinez outslugged Bryant last year, but for their careers, that’s a wash. Perhaps the mild lag in Bryant’s ADP this year is an overreaction to last year’s 73 RBIs, a total that doesn’t make sense with the rest of his stat line.

Both of these players are likely to make fantasy owners happy in 2018. But Bryant is a first-round talent who’s being mistakenly pushed to the second round of many drafts, just one year removed from an MVP campaign. Take advantage. Kris Bryant discounts are rare opportunities.

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