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Victor-nesia
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - "Community" on NBC has always been one of my favorite shows. In last week's episode, Ben Chang, the Spanish teacher during Season 1, was dealing with a bad case of amnesia.

The characters on the show were calling it "Chang-nesia."

I feel like fantasy owners have Victor-nesia.

"Wait, Victor who?"

"You really don't remember? Victor Martinez? He's a four-time American League All-Star."

"Nope, not ringing any bells."

"Come on. He played catcher for the Indians and Red Sox and now he's on Detroit."

"Detroit ... oh you mean, the guy who just won the Triple Crown?"

"That's Miguel Cabrera."

"Oh, okay. You must be talking about the guy with the dreads. His dad played in the major leagues."

Ugggh. It's like Martinez's very existence has been erased from all of our memories (hopefully Christopher Nolan works this into the plot of the next "Inception" movie).

For those of you who need a refresher, Martinez has been one of the most dominant major league catchers of the last decade.

Admittedly, I'm using the term "catcher" pretty loosely. V-Mart mostly serves as a designated hitter nowadays.

But as long as ESPN and Yahoo think he's a catcher (sadly, he's lost his first base eligibility), that's all that matters.

I guess we "fooled" them.

In all seriousness, Martinez has been vastly under-appreciated in fantasy circles over the years. From a purely offensive standpoint, Martinez might go down as one of the greatest catchers of all-time.

Since becoming a full-time starter in 2004, Martinez has contributed five 20 homer seasons and four 100 RBI campaigns while collecting a .303 lifetime batting average.

Joe Mauer, widely considered the best catcher of this generation, has just one 20 homer season to his credit and he's never even sniffed 100 RBI.

Carlton Fisk was enshrined in the Hall of Fame back in 2000. Former Rangers backstop Ivan Rodriguez should join him in Cooperstown soon enough. In 45 seasons, the two Pudges racked up three 100-RBI campaigns ... combined.

This isn't uncharted territory, but it's barely charted territory. Martinez is one of just six catchers in MLB history to record at least five 20-homer seasons and four campaigns of 100 RBI or more. Out of those six, only Martinez and Mike Piazza have hit .300 or better more than five times (Piazza did it nine times in his 16 seasons).

Martinez's home run total fell from 20 to 12 in 2011, but he made up for the power drop-off by hitting a career-high .330 (sixth in MLB). 2011 marked the third straight season Martinez has finished with an average in the .300s.

Even with eight fewer homers, the differences in Martinez's slugging percentage and OPS from the year before were barely noticeable (.493 SLUG, .844 OPS in 2010 versus .470 and .850 the next season).

But that was the 32-year-old version of V-Mart. Now Martinez is 34 and coming off a serious knee injury.

ACLs have been tearing left and right in the sports world recently (RG3, Derrick Rose and Adrian Peterson to name a few) but very few of them have occurred on a baseball diamond. That doesn't give us much of a basis for comparison.

Chipper Jones came back from an ACL injury to have a fairly productive season in 2011 (.275, 18 HR, 70 RBI). That's encouraging because Jones was actually much older than V-Mart when he suffered the injury (Jones was 38).

That's the best case scenario for Martinez. Mat Gamel would be the worst case.

The Brewers first baseman tore his ACL in 2012, only to tear it again in the first week of Spring Training about three weeks ago.

That could be why Martinez isn't appearing on any top 50 lists this spring. ESPN has him at 60 while Yahoo is a bit more pessimistic, putting Martinez at No. 89 in their latest player rankings.

I understand the risk, but I'm not going to let Gamel's awful luck scare me away from drafting Martinez.

The Tigers played it right with Martinez. Detroit could have brought V-Mart back in September at less than 100 percent. Instead, they held off and gave him the time he needed to fully heal.

Now that Martinez is a full-time DH, his body won't have to go through the same kind of wear and tear he experienced as a catcher for so many seasons. As long as V-Mart doesn't pull a Big Papi and trip over the bases, he should stay healthy this season.

He's also a switch hitter, so manager Jim Leyland won't need to substitute for Martinez when left-handed pitchers are on the mound. That means he'll be in the lineup almost everyday.

Even if Martinez regresses as older players typically do, he's still going to have Cabrera and Fielder hitting in front of him. That should at least give V- Mart plenty of RBI opportunities.

The Martinez comeback has already begun. He's hitting .333 through eight Grapefruit League games this spring.

"Okay, so Victor Martinez plays for Detroit and I should draft him this year because he's healthy and he might not have catcher eligibility next season?"

Bingo.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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