Victor Martinez Is Headed To Detroit

The Detroit Tigers continued their aggressive offseason approach today by adding Victor Martinez to their roster for a reported 50 million dollars over four years.  Martinez is obviously a huge upgrade for the Tigers over Gerald Laird and Alex Avila, although Avila will have a chance to approach 300 at-bats again in 2011 with Martinez sure to see some time at DH.  The real question is whether the move to Detroit upgrades Martinez’s fantasy value in 2011.

My first thought was an assumption that Martinez probably had better numbers in games where he was a DH or first baseman as opposed to games he caught.  However, Martinez surprisingly has only 119 at-bats as a DH with a .235 career average and holds a .299 average as a catcher.  Clearly the DH sample size is far too small to mean anything going forward, but the solid numbers as a catcher mean the extra time he will see at DH is probably not going to boost his production significantly if at all.

The next thing to consider is the ballpark.  Fenway Park in Boston is generally considered to be a better park for hitters than Detroit’s Comerica Park, and Martinez’s splits are consistent with that line of thinking.  In just under 400 career Fenway at-bats Martinez owns a .322 average and .900 OPS, and in 169 at-bats at Comerica he has a .225 average and .671 OPS.  Again, both sample sizes are too small to allow those splits to say anything definitive (500 at-bats usually represents a large enough sample size for batting average and OPS), but the difference in the numbers is fairly substantial.  It seems obvious that the change of ballpark will depress Martinez’s offensive numbers to some degree.

The final consideration is the new lineup.  In 2010, Boston had more pop in their lineup than Detroit with 59 more home runs and a 36 point difference in slugging percentage, but some of that difference can be made up when you consider the ballpark as well as the fact that Boston had Martinez last year and Detroit did not.  Nevertheless, Martinez may see his run total dip some (especially if he hits behind Miguel Cabrera).  On the other hand, Detroit was 5th in the American League in on-base percentage (only four points behind Boston), so Martinez should still have opportunities to accumulate RBI and might even increase his RBI total (again, especially if he hits behind Miguel Cabrera).

Ultimately, lineup and position changes for Martinez figure to have a negligible effect, but the ballpark change is going to make a noticeable difference.

I had only tentatively started working on my 2011 rankings prior to this signing, but whether in Boston or elsewhere, Martinez was going to be my number four catcher behind Joe Mauer, Brian McCann and Buster Posey in that order.  Most likely, Martinez will continue to be drafted as he has been the last couple of years, presumably somewhere towards the end of the fifth round in ten-team leagues as the third catcher taken.  My advice is to recognize that it will be difficult for Martinez to continue his level of production in his new ballpark, understand that Buster Posey and Carlos Santana have added some new depth at the catcher position, and wait to take Martinez only if you can get him in the 6th or 7th round.

Written by Brett Talley exclusively for thefantasyfix.com.  Brett is a law student in Dallas who should probably admit that he has never been a big Victor Martinez guy.  You can follow him on Twitter @therealTAL.

Tags: The Fantasy Fix, Fantasy Baseball Blog, Fantasy Baseball Advice, Free Agency, 2010, 2011, MLB, Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, Miguel Cabrera, Buster Posey, Carlos Santana
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