The Detroit Tigers’ Victor Martinez became a forgotten man during the first half of the 2013 season and fantasy baseball owners seem to be focusing in on that during this year’s drafts.
They shouldn’t be.
Martinez had one of the best second halves in all of baseball last season, and despite his age, is a steal at his current ADP in fantasy drafts.
Victor Martinez, 1B/DH (current ADP: #158):
In 2012, Victor Martinez underwent a procedure to repair both the lateral and medial menisci in left knee. It was feared he would also need to have surgery performed on his ACL, but doctors decided to let him rehab the injury.
Martinez would miss the entire 2012 season.
Coming into the 2013 campaign, there were lofty expectations for the Tigers. They had reached the World Series the year before and Martinez was supposed to be a huge addition to their already powerful lineup.
The season started off very slow for the then 34-year-old. He batted .221 in March/April, .235 in May, and .240 in June. Those numbers were very uncharacteristic for a guy who had boasted a career .303 BA over his 10-year career.
His power numbers were also down. He failed to hit the ball out of the park in all of March and April, and went into the All-Star break with just 8 HR and a .380 SLG%, well below his career mark of .464.
Fantasy owners were dropping him left and right. “He’s too old.” “His knee surgery has sapped all his power.” Those were some of the excuses I was hearing. Fantasy baseball is a game of patience though, and owners were jumping ship too quickly. This was an experienced hitter in a lineup surrounded by the likes of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
Anyone who dropped Martinez was surely regretting, as he went on to have one of the best second-half performances in all of Major League Baseball.
Fans who watched Martinez could see him getting more comfortable with his knee. He was turning singles into doubles and making head-first slides into third base. This was the V-Mart we all expected when we drafted him.
Martinez went on to club 6 HR with 29 RBI in just 252 at bats after the All-Star break. He lead all major leaguers (with at least 100 at bats) in hitting with a .361 mark. He totals reflected a torrid month of August where he hit .386 and slugged .491.
Much of his success in the second half can be attributed to adjustments he made at the plate. His strikeout rate went down from 11.2% to 6.5%. His line drive rate went up from 18.% to 27.2%. The most telling stat is his overall BABIP, which was .313. With a career BABIP of .316, it shows that Martinez was deserving of all his success. His second half numbers were not a fluke, rather he was just rounding out into form following his extensive knee surgery.
It’s likely that his 20-homer years are behind him, but he’s a near lock for a .300 BA (considering he’s fallen below that number just once since 2004) and he’s never struck out more than 78 times, meaning he’ll almost always put the ball in play.
One of the biggest bonuses to taking Martinez in this year’s draft, though, could be some additional position eligibility. He only played three games at catcher last season, but Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus (a former catcher) has said that he plans to play V-Mart behind the plate in some games this season. In most fantasy leagues, all it takes is five starts at a new position to create eligibility there.
As of Thursday, Victor Martinez is getting taken No. 158 overall (with a $6 auction price), according to FantasyPros.com. It’s a pretty fair spot for him to be in, but if you are an owner who needs a catcher, waiting for him there, instead of splurging for guys like Salvador Perez ($9) could save you some sacred dough. It may take 4-6 weeks to get him eligible there, but it’s will be worth it if you have a serviceable backstop to plug in there until then.
2014 Projections: .309/.379/.459, 16 HR, 96 RBI, 80 R, 0 SB
» Missed any of my earlier picks? Please click here for links to all the sleepers I’ve covered from each team so far.