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Once AL East rivals, Russell Martin and Matt Wieters are a well-matched pair of as they enter 2017. Wieters still holds the promise of his early days, while Martin seems to be is what he is… and that’s pretty good. The question is whether or not Wieters can steal enough categories to come out on top. Let’s find out.

Batting Average

Martin hit .231 last year with a .291 BABIP. That’s not very good. Martin has hit over .250 exactly once in the last eight years, doing so in a 2014 season in which his BABIP was a nice, fat .336. In fact, Martin’s average tracks pretty well with his BABIP from year to year and last year was pretty high for him (.291) and still, you know, he hit .231. Wieters actually has a slightly lower career average than Martin (.254 to .251) but outhit him last year (.243). His BABIP was .265 and seems likely to rebound to career norms, and if Martin’s own BABIP normalizes in the opposite direction, his average could easily fall even further. Advantage: Wieters

On-Base Percentage

There still exists a Matt Wieters Facts website from the days he projected to a better hitter than he has become, and it’s quite the lovely anachronism, but Wieters has never walked enough to be an elite hitter. Martin, by contrast, has a wonderful eye. He has never walked fewer than 47 times in a season, whereas Wieters was just about at his career average last year, with 32. This put Martin at .335 and Wieters at .302, and I don’t think any potential bump I expect in BA for Wieters would outpace Martin’s consistent ability to get on base. Advantage: Martin

Home Runs

The Matt Wieters Facts website cheekily boasts that “Matt Wieters can DH in the National League,” but the fact is that his power days look like they’re behind him even as a move to the senior circuit is increasingly a reality. Wieters and Martin both have a career high of 23 homers, but Martin puts up numbers in the high teens and low 20s more consistently than Wieters does, often simply by virtue of not getting hurt. Last year, Wieters’ 17 dingos over 464 PA, in a contract year, were basically in line with Martin’s 20 carumbas in 535 PA, but health is a skill, and it pushes the issue in an otherwise extremely close race. Advantage: Martin

Runs

Martin’s on-base skills are good enough that he’s a default favorite to beat Wieters out in runs. As we shall see down the line, while Martin isn’t exactly the second coming of Vince Coleman, he’s a Ferrari compared to Wieters, and has good on-base skills to boot. Advantage: Martin

RBI

Here’s where the real world starts to intervene. Edwin Encarnacion has left Toronto, and Jose Bautista could be next. Martin has been far more consistent than Wieters in putting up above-average RBI numbers, though it’s possible Wieters could have a career year, or even something less than it, and pull past Martin. They’re in exactly the same neighborhoods for full-enough season tallies, ranging from 50 to 80, so it makes sense to take Wieters if he signs with a offensively gifted team and you feel like he’s going to stay healthy. Martin is the safer pick. You take Wieters if you feel lucky. Well, do you feel lucky, punk? Do you? Advantage: Wieters

Stolen Bases

The aging Martin had a grand total of two steals last year and just 10 over the last three years. Wieters has seven in his career, and makes Martin look like a Canadian version of the Flash. Advantage: Martin

Injury Risk

Despite playing most of his contract year, Wieters has a more checkered recent past with injuries than Martin, who was been remarkably resilient throughout his career. Wieters underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014 which isn’t common for a catcher, to say the least, and doesn’t necessarily portend anything in the future. That’s still worse than Martin, whose most notable run-ins with the team doctor were for high-fiving his teammates too hard. Advantage: Martin

Upside

Martin is, when it’s all said and done, likely the better pure overall player, but there’s not much room to grow. Entering his age-34 season, he doesn’t figure to have a career year on a team that just got worse, though if he does, c’est bon. Conversely, a change of scenery could help Wieters fulfill the Paul Bunyan-esque projections of his youth. Even if it’s likely to remain unrealized, any potential is on Wieters’ side. Advantage: Wieters

Overall

These two are really, really close. If I expected Martin to repeat last year, I’d take him without much issue, but the factors working against him, and in Wieters’ favor, make this a nearly perfect pick-your-poison spot. If I take Wieters, I’m worried that he might not reach his potential. If I take Martin, I’m confident he’ll do what I need him to do, even if it’s less than what Wieters could provide. At a position with a boatload of guys fighting to stick out, either one has his value, but as a guy who plays in an OBP league, I’d go Martin. This isn’t about me — ‘tis about you, dear reader — and in a standard league, I’d take Wieters. That’s a fact. Advantage: Wieters