2011 Fantasy Baseball Profile: Can Yankees' Russell Martin Return To Elite Form?

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2011 Fantasy Baseball Profile: Can Yankees' Russell Martin Return To Elite Form?
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Russell Martin established himself as one of the most valuable fantasy catchers in 2007 and 2008, boasting a superb power/speed threat:

  • 2007: 87 runs, 19 HRs, 87 RBI, 21 steals, .293/.374/.469
  • 2008: 87 runs, 13 HRs, 69 RBI, 18 steals, .280/.385/.396

In the two seasons since, however, Martin has combined to hit just .249 with 12 HRs and 17 steals.

To be fair, Martin was limited to 97 games in 2010, thanks to a fractured hip. Still, this doesn’t explain the precipitous drop in batting average and power before the injury.

Martin himself has attributed the lack of production in recent years to “distractions,” claiming he didn’t work as hard as he used to.

This is a little hard to believe, but the fact that he’s acknowledged it and vowed to pick up the slack is worth mentioning. Oh, and his one-year contract should serve as motivation, too.

As I was compiling my catcher rankings for the upcoming season, I found head-scratching similarities (if not improvements) in many of Martin's statistical categories from 2007 to 2010.

Consider the following:

Walk Rate:

  • 2007: 10.8 percent
  • 2008: 13.8 percent
  • 2010: 12.4 percent

Contact Rate:

  • 2007: 81.3 percent
  • 2008: 83.5 percent
  • 2010: 82.0 percent

Line-Drive Rate:

  • 2007: 17.5 percent
  • 2008: 19.4 percent
  • 2010: 20.6 percent

Martin’s line-drive rate is most confusing. Despite an increase in recent seasons, his BABIP has fallen from .317 in ‘07, to .309 in ‘08, to .287 last season.

So, what's changed?

Martin’s fly-ball and HR/FB rates have dropped off some:

Fly-Ball Rate:

  • 2007: 34.1 percent
  • 2008: 29.6 percent
  • 2010: 28.3 percent

HR/FB Rate:

  • 2007: 12.2 percent
  • 2008: 9.4 percent
  • 2010: 6.5 percent

Theoretically, this (in addition to an increased line-drive rate) should yield a higher batting average. Instead, it’s resulted in a 40-point drop in batting average, while shaving 90 points off his ISO power.

So, what should we expect in 2011?

Assuming he’s not slacking off and partying with A-Rod and Jeter into the late New York hours, there’s actually hope for the 28-year-old catcher.

Given the short fences in Yankee Stadium and his spot in the order (ninth) in front of Brett Garnder, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira, 12 HRs, 10 steals, 70 runs and a .270 average may actually be attainable.

Super-prospect Jesus Montero will keep pressure on Martin to produce, but given 130 games behind the plate, the newest Yankee should return to fantasy relevance. His current ADP on Mock Draft Central is 311, 12 spots behind his backup Montero and he’s owned in just 37 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

There’s a significant drop-off in upside once the top 10 or 12 catchers are off the board.

Players such as John Jaso, Carlos Ruiz, Yadier Molina and A.J. Pierzynski fail to offer the upside of Martin. In fact, most of them will probably hold down the waiver wire all season, so even if Martin busts, they’ll be ready and waiting to fill in for your team with sub-par production.

Martin is a low-risk, high-reward option. Snag him late in your draft and hope for the best!

  PA R HR RBI SB AVG
2010 stats 387 45 5 26 6 .248
3-year average 541 65 8 49 12 .261
2011 FBI Forecast 515 65 10 55 10 .270

 

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