Victor Martinez is one of the best catchers in baseball, no one is going to argue that, but when he signed with the Detroit Tigers you have to wonder if it was a positive move for his fantasy value. Over the past seven seasons he has actually had 162 at bats at Comerica Park (thanks to playing many games against them while an member of the Indians). His numbers there certainly are not very awe-inspiring, hitting just .216 with 4 HR, 21 RBI and 15 R.
Obviously, it is not a huge sample size, but it is not a small one either. Then again, hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera certainly will give things a different feel (though we have no clue at this point how the lineup will be set up). While that may give him a better chance to score runs, the move in general could hurt his HR and RBI potential.
In 2010 he hit 20 HR, 10 at home and 10 at the road. Given his struggles in Comerica Park, you have to at least be slightly concerned that his home run total takes a small hit. He’s always been a 20-23 HR hitter and last season he actually posted a fly ball rate of 41.9%, his highest mark since 2004. It wouldn’t be a surprise if that number regressed.
Couple that with the new ballpark and seeing him fall just short of 20 HR would not be a surprise.
As for the RBI, the top of the Tigers lineup just isn’t going to be the same as the Red Sox. We will take about Austin Jackson in much more detail in the near future, but it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see him regress, potentially significantly.
Without names like Dustin Pedroia or Jacoby Ellsbury hitting in front of him, the opportunities to drive in runs could be lower. Last season he had 79 RBI, though he was also limited to 493 AB. I would think he would still have at least that, though 90 now appears to be his upside potential (as opposed to reaching 100 in Boston).
The Tigers could utilize him as the DH in an effort to limit the wear and tear on his buddy (especially with Alex Avila in place), but they have also been one of the most aggressive teams thus far. It wouldn’t be a big surprise to see them make another move or two, so drawing any final conclusions on their roster or how he will be fully utilized would be a mistake.
At this point, you have to still love Martinez as a catcher, but his value does take a small hit with the move. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see his power struggle a bit, and the RBI opportunities could regress as well. The Tigers lineup construction will play a huge role, but with their aggressiveness it’s impossible to know how things will be. There have been rumors of them signing another big bat, which would drastically change everything.
This not enough to change his ranking as one of the elite at his position (at least for now) given his ability to hit right around .300, but the gap between him and the next group got a little bit smaller.
What are your thoughts on the signing? How does it affect Martinez’ value? Is he still an elite catcher in your eyes?
Make sure to check out our early 2011 rankings: