clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Will Victor Martinez see action at 1B this year?

New, 1 comment

Jim Banks over on the Cleveland Indians' official site breaks down Tribe's recent trades. Apparently the fan reaction in Cleveland -- as measured by talk radio banter -- has been negative, but Banks explains point per point why he feels the Indians actually came out ahead. If you're interested, check it out, but he makes one point in particular that I'd like to highlight (added emphasis mine):

2. Josh Bard for Kelly Shoppach: The Tribe had so little faith in Bard's ability to contribute at the plate that he garnered just 83 at-bats as the sole backup to Victor Martinez in 2005. Bard hit a paltry .193 and carries a career .238 average into 2006. He's a good backstop, but so is Shoppach, who threw out 44 percent of baserunners last year at Triple-A, where he also pounded 26 home runs. So Shoppach can hit, too. He'll likely be the backup catcher this year, giving Wedge the option of resting Martinez more, or playing him at first occasionally. Is he good enough to become a starter and allow the Tribe to move Martinez to first? We don't know that -- but at least it's possible. It was clear that Bard was never going to be that guy. Another no-brainer.

The idea of Martinez seeing some action at first base has been floated in the past, and it was recently discussed on this site in the comments in Boston Been's diary. Personally, I'll believe it when I see it.

Nothing against Shoppach, but he's offered no proof that he can hit for average. The last two years at AAA Pawtucket, he's hit .233 and .253 while striking out in about a third of his at-bats. Yeah, he combined for 48 home runs in that span, but the Indians shouldn't have any problem scoring runs this year, and I'll be surprised if they get overly creative just to get his bat in the lineup.

Besides, Martinez has just 14 games of experience at first base, and that was back in 2003 with AAA Buffalo. (That doesn't include winter ball or Arizona Fall League games, which I can't easily verify one way or the other.) Teams don't just throw their marquee, cornerstone hitters at a new position on a whim. First base isn't a demanding position, but inexperience is an injury-risk at any position.

From a fantasy perspective, Martinez is still going to be a top-tier catcher no matter what, but don't draft him thinking you may be getting a bit of roster versatility out of it, because it'll take most of the season -- if at all -- before he makes the requisite 10 appearances at first to be eligible there in most leagues.