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A Closer Look: Victor Martinez

V-Mart is entering his first full season in the Boston lineup, where he OPS'ed .912 last season in 211 AB's (75 points higher than his career mark). Expectations are high. I'd like to temper them a bit.

It's obvious that Martinez is one of the elite catcher options in mixed leagues. If you throw out his injury plagued 2008 season, declaring it the outlier that it likely was, his peripherals are remarkably stable. Walk rate, contact percentage, GB/FB splits, HR/F... all of them. His value lies in his reliability, not his production.

The reason I'm not going bananas over V-Mart this season is primarily based on the Red Sox playing time situation. In previous seasons, Martinez would play first base on his off days from catching, effectively adding about 50-100 AB's per season that most other catchers won't get. That's going to be difficult to do with Boston this season. I'm hard pressed to see them sitting either Youkilis or Beltre to make room for Martinez, considering their new emphasis on defense. It doesn't make much sense to sit the "elite" defensive options in an effort to get a marginally better bat in the lineup. So I expect him to get the usual catcher's worth of AB's, which, just by pure math, means he'll be less productive.

Now, the second thing that's got me a bit worried is Victor's production as a catcher as opposed to playing first base. It's generally accepted that catching is a physically daunting task and it takes a toll on a player's offensive abilities (Well, unless you're a juiced up Mike Piazza... but that's neither here nor there). Previously, Martinez never really played enough first base to get a big enough sample size to draw any real conclusions. Last year was different. He got 255 AB's at 1B and 317 at C, and the OPS split is remarkable, .942/.783. I'm not saying he's going to OPS .783 for the whole year and leave owner's frustrated. I'm simply saying don't expect that .942 either.