Russell Martin: Fantasy Baseball Starter? Maybe. Top Option? No.

Eric StashinSenior Writer IFebruary 27, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 08:  Russell Martin #55 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on from home plate against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Two of the NLDS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at Dodger Stadium on October 8, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

What happened to Russell Martin in 2009?  Was it an aberration or have his skills actually declined? Before we can answer that question, let’s take a look at his 2009 production:

505 At Bats
.250 Batting Average (126 Hits)
7 Home Runs
53 RBI
63 Runs
11 Stolen Bases
.352 On Base Percentage
.329 Slugging Percentage
.285 Batting Average on Balls in Play

First, let’s discuss the power. What happened to it? He has gone from 19 HR in ‘07 to 13 HR in ‘08 to last season's seven HR performance. He was never a big fly ball hitter, with a 31.1 percent career mark (and 30.7 percent last season). What has happened is his HR/FB has steadily declined:

  • 2007 - 12.2%
  • 2008 - 9.4%
  • 2009 - 5.4%

Of players who qualified for the batting title, he was in the bottom 25 of the league along with names like Scott Podsednik, Luis Castillo, and Jason Kendall. 

While he’s never going to be a 20+ option, I would expect a little bit better production and a return to the world of double-digit home runs.

The average suffered from a bit of bad luck, as he had posted BABIPs of .322 and .311 the previous two seasons (helping him to averages of .293 and .280). He doesn’t strike out a ton, as he has a great eye at the plate, evidenced by his strikeout and walk rates the past three seasons (K%/BB%):

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  • 2007 - 16.5%/10.8%
  • 2008 - 15.0%/13.8%
  • 2009 - 15.8%/11.7%

That should certainly help him to produce a usable average in all formats, though I’m not sure he’s going to be able to repeat the luck he has posted in years past, meaning I wouldn’t expect him back into the .280s.

Why? Because the speed, which was his biggest asset, has been in decline in recent seasons. He has gone from 21 SB to 18 SB to last season's 11. He only attempted 17 SB last season and had just three successful attempts after the All-Star Break.

Was it overuse? Possibly, as he is a rare catcher that suits up almost every single day, though rumors are that could change in 2010. There is talk that Joe Torre may limit him to 140 games this season, which may help to keep him fresh, but it also will limit his ability in the counting stats (R and RBI).

Let’s take a look at what I’d expect from him in 2010:

.264 (140-530), 10 HR, 65 RBI, 70 R, 10 SB, .299 BABIP, .359 OBP, .362 SLG

To me, he’s borderline usable in one-catcher formats (I have him ranked 14th but in the same tier as the guys ranked 11th and 12th). I’ve seen people ranking him among the top five catchers, but I just don’t see it. 

He never had big-time power or a great average, but he was a player who took the field every day so he could help you out in the counting stats while adding some stolen bases.

Without that, he’s just no longer all that attractive of an option to me. I’d much rather grab the younger players, like Miguel Montero, Matt Wieters, or Kurt Suzuki, or take the gamble on someone with more upside like injury risks Jorge Posada and Ryan Doumit.

In two-catcher leagues, he’s certainly usable as a second catcher, but that’s about it for me. What about you? Do you think Martin will rebound?  How highly do you rank him?

If you would like to see a free preview of the Rotoprofessor 2010 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide (available for just $5) now including a Top 50 Prospects for 2010 List, click here .

Make sure to check out some of our 2010 projections, including: