2018 Projection: Will Carlos Martinez Emerge As Truly “Elite”? It’s Actually Not Likely…

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Carlos Martinez is often viewed as a potentially elite starter, and while he’s certainly “good” it’s easy to argue that he hasn’t quite reached his overall potential.  Entering his fourth full season as a starter in the Majors (he threw 89.1 innings in 2014, but 50 of his 57 appearances came out of the bullpen) and now 26-years old it’s time to take the next step forward.  Can he do it?  First let’s look at the numbers for 2017:

205.0 IP
12 Wins
3.64 ERA
1.22 WHIP
217 Strikeouts (9.53 K/9)
71 Walks (3.12 BB/9)
51.3% Groundball Rate
.284 BABIP

Clearly he’s shown strikeouts, control and groundballs, so it’s easy to get excited.  The question now is if he can turn the corner and emerge as one of the truly elite (think Top 10, borderline Top 5) or is he destined to continue as a “second tier” starter and a better fit as a SP2?

 

Strikeouts
Last season’s strikeout rate was a career best, though there was a regression as the season wore on (9.90 in the first half, 9.03 in the second half).  Even the post All-Star Break number is a bit skewed, as he posted a 10.16 K/9 in September after posting marks of 7.14 and 8.84 in July and August.  His SwStr% (10.5%) and O-Swing% (28.8%) also don’t get you overly excited.

He does generate swings and misses with both his changeup (18.22% Whiff%) and slider (17.48%), but that clearly isn’t enough.  He has the stuff to be a strikeout per inning pitcher but seeing him emerge as anything more than that could be a stretch.

 

Control
Martinez owns a career 3.21 BB/9 and has been consistent over each of the past three seasons:

  • 2015 – 3.16
  • 2016 – 3.23
  • 2017 – 3.12

In other words he is what he is, and that’s more than enough.

 

Home Runs
This is where things went “wrong” last season, as despite the strong groundball rate he allowed a 1.19 HR/9.  The big problem came on the road, as he owned a 1.51 HR/9 (which led to a 4.02 ERA).  That hasn’t been the case throughout his career (3.21 ERA, 0.72 HR/9 on the road) and is something that should be easily corrected.

 

2018 Projection
200.0 IP, 16 W, 3.33 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 202 K (9.09 K/9), 65 BB (2.93 BB/9)

 

Conclusion
We are buying into his improved control in the second half of ’17, as well as allowing fewer home runs (the projection includes a 0.86 HR/9), but that’s not enough to turn him into significantly more than he currently is with the strikeout rate seemingly capped.  There’s nothing wrong with that and he’s absolutely worth owning as a SP2 in all formats, just don’t make the mistake of expecting him to be a true ace.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Rankings:

Position
Standard League
OBP League
Catchers03/14/1802/02/18
First Basemen01/08/1802/09/18
Second Basemen01/15/1802/13/18
Shortstops03/21/1802/27/18
Third Basemen03/09/1803/06/18
Outfielders1-20: 03/18/18

21-40: 03/19/18
1-20: 03/12/18

21-40:
Starting Pitchers1-20: 03/24/18

21-40: 03/24/18
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Relief Pitchers02/12/18--

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