The Tale of the Tape moves on from catchers to first basemen. To communicate a point not articulated last week: I'll approach my Tuesday iterations of Tale of the Tape from a redraft perspective; we take a dynasty perspective in the latter half of every week. With that said, let's look specifically at two catchers-turned-first basemen-slash-designated hitters in Victor Martinez and Carlos Santana, both of whom project to be low-end starting first base options in standard formats.
This one won't be particularly close, so I won't waste too much digital breath on this. V-Mart's days of hitting .300 are probably forever behind him—which, although offhanded, is high praise for a 38-year-old. Meanwhile, Santana has never hit better than .268 in a single season, and that was four years ago. V-Mart's worst offensive seasons came during those shortened by injury; such a result will be Santana's best bet to prevail in this category. Advantage: Martinez
V-Mart's microscopic point-zero-zero-zero-eight lead over Santana in career OBP is much more exciting. (That's .0008, but it's more fun to spell out.) You'd be hard-pressed to find a slimmer margin. Yet their OPB face-off in 2017 might not be as close as the fun fact might suggest. V-Mart just posted the worst strikeout rate of his career, and while it's still above average for the league, it's a likely indicator of decline, finally, for Major League Baseball's third-oldest full-time hitter. Santana, the Dominican God of Walks, makes up for his batting average deficit with free passes. As Martinez's batting average floor falls, so does the likelihood of him eclipsing a .350 OBP. Santana has never once fell below that mark. Advantage: Santana
Santana, who typically hits for 25-homer power, participated in baseball's Great Power Surge of 2016, adding seven home runs to his former career-best single-season tally and shattering the 30-homer mark for the first time. How you expect his power to fare in 2017 depends on how you think the trend will play out in 2017 and whether you think Santana's gains are legitimate enough to survive league-wide regression, should it occur. Meanwhile, V-Mart flashed back to 2014, seemingly validating his own late-career power spike independent of what happened in 2016. His abysmal 2015 snapped in two any semblance of a trend, so it's hard to know if he'll do it again, especially at his age. All things considered, Santana has demonstrated a higher power ceiling more recently and more consistently. Advantage: Santana
RBI and Runs
Whatever slight edge Santana may have had in the counting stats will be exacerbated by Cleveland's juggernaut offense, which projects to be one of if not the best offenses in baseball. Advantage: Santana
V-Mart has done well for himself, recording at least 590 plate appearances in nine of his 13 seasons since becoming a starter back in 2004. Catching took his toll on him; his knees have certainly seen better days. Santana, on the other hand, permanently escaped backstop duties early in his career and has hit the disabled list only once in his career because of a concussion. He's as good a bet for 650 plate appearances as anyone. Although he's on the wrong side of 30, age is much more on his side than it is Old Man Victor's. Advantage: Santana
This is and always will be an incredibly important distinction for me. Santana is being drafted roughly 120th in National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) drafts; V-Mart is going 230th. To give you an idea of how the aforementioned league-wide power spike has augmented players' perceived values, Santana was drafted roughly 200th in 2016 NFBC drafts. V-Mart continues to see age- and injury-related discounts baked into his draft price. Meanwhile, Santana's ballooning costs have created little, if any, room for profit. Both hitters finished among the top 125 players overall in 2016, per ESPN's Player Rater. Repeats of both of their 2016 seasons—each with varying degrees of unlikeliness—establishes a much better expected return on investment for V-Mart. Advantage: Martinez
Martinez might not actually be a first baseman in your league; he played only five games at first base last year. A common complaint I hear about DH-only hitters is a reluctant to "clog" a Utility slot. As long as your DH-only hitter is good, it shouldn't really matter. To compensate, you can deliberately target hitters with multipositional eligibility to make up for drafting someone like V-Mart. Alternatively: stop complaining. Advantage: Draw
Maybe this is a hot take, but V-Mart's relative value trumps all else for me. If his and Santana's ADPs were much closer (circa 2016), this would be a no-brainer. But Santana being drafted at his ceiling, while not inherently risky given his perennial reliability, is not particularly appetizing. V-Mart has generated no worse than a 113 wRC+ since 2009 when excluduing his injury-plagued 2015 season. He must contend with daunting obstacles—age and injuries, namely—but his recent track record and high floor supported by remarkable contact skills suggest he can reward thrifty fantasy owners yet again. Your perceptions of Santana and V-Mart will depend almost exclusively on your risk preferences, but you simply cannot ignore their relative costs.
The Verdict: Martinez
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