If you had Victor Martinez on your fantasy team in 2013, I hope you know what a good thing you had. You won’t be getting in 2014.
If you’ve been following us on Twitter this off-season, you may be aware of a conversation that Nash, Clave, and myself had with a reader regarding the fantasy value of Joe Mauer. It was such a lively discussion that it drew not one, but two posts with us in that week.
Basically, the question was this: Now that Mauer is moving full-time away from the catcher position, will his fantasy value go up, or down?
We had some slight differences of opinion, but the general consensus was that in 2014, it will go up. Mauer will have catcher eligibility while theoretically having to play no games at catcher. That will give him a big edge in at-bats over any other catcher, and at the end of the year, when Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, Wilin Rosario, and any other catcher you can think of will be struggling at the plate because of the season spent in the crouch, taking foul tips off of pretty much all parts of the body, Mauer will be fairly fresh. Playing the fairly stress free first base and the even more stress free DH will do that to you.
If that seems like a familiar idea to you, it is. V-Mart was in pretty much the exact same scenario in 2013, as he caught only three games. When you look at his numbers, it looks like the move paid off for him. When you look at how those numbers split, it really looks like the move paid off for him.
Victor Martinez: 2013
So, when every other catcher in the league was wearing down, Martinez was getting a lot better. It’s why Martinez was the third ranked catcher according to ESPN in 2013.
But this is where the Mauer argument took a twist.
Mauer’s not a power hitter. He’ll never come close to competing with guys like Paul Goldschmidt or Chris Davis in the long ball department. The question is that without the strain of catching, how much will his power numbers go up and would that make him a top fantasy first baseman in 2015?
This was a little stickier, but we all drew the conclusion that they’d go up, but probably not to a point where Mauer would be a top fantasy first baseman, even if he does compete for a batting title. But with Mauer, there’s legitimate reason to wonder.
With Martinez, there’s no real reason to wonder. We just saw what he did without having to play catcher and it wasn’t that much better than what he did when he was a catcher.
When we head into the 2014 drafts, we’re no longer looking at Martinez as one of 2013’s best catchers. Nope, now we’re looking at a guy who was the 106th ranked player, and 66th ranked hitter in 2013. Remember, he played only 11 games at first base, not good enough to maintain eligibility in most leagues. So, you won’t even be able to claim him as the 14th best first baseman if everyone replicates their numbers.
The one thing Martinez has going for him is that he’s now back into a groove, as you can see by those second half stats. Remember, he missed all of 2012, so a poor start to 2013 was predictable. That’s something that shouldn’t be an issue heading into 2014.
But again, the 2013 final stats were pretty similar to what he was doing before the injury, so I don’t see a big uptick in production heading forward.
So what does it all mean? Martinez should still be on a roster in pretty much any league with 10 or more teams, but he needs to be viewed as a regression guy. Unfortunately, the loss of catcher (and even first base) eligibility means that he can have an even better year in 2014, but be significantly less valuable. So when you’re evaluating Victor Martinez heading into the drafts, remember that his value will decrease and that he’s not a guy anyone needs to have on the roster.
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