Leonys Martin: Not a Bad Target

I don’t think that there’s much to analyze about Leonys Martin the player. The Texas Rangers’ center fielder isn’t a great player. On offense, he’s not even a good player, at least in terms of his weighted value as a hitter. He’s just a player, one who happened to be, based on his ADP (according to Fantasy Pros and his RotoGraphs preseason rank) compared to Zach Sanders’ end-of-season standings at the position, properly “valued” this past season.

Martin the fantasy baseball asset is a slightly different case. He batted .274 with seven home runs and 31 stolen bases. He earned about $12 this season in a typical 12-team mixed league. Judging from his typical cost in CBS leagues and the NFBC as well as the rankings of a couple of folks on the RotoGraphs preseason rankings panel (see here), some fantasy baseball players had hoped for a bit more, it seems.

This is the type of player who’d be on my secondary or tertiary target list next season. Here’s why.

  • He’s not a great player, it turns out, in reality or fantasy.

I think that we covered this, but I want to expand a little. First, Martin isn’t, or at least hasn’t been, a good hitter, relatively speaking. He’s depended on the bunt to pad his AVG. He improved his results against left-handers, but many of the indicators suggest that he’s a candidate to platoon. He also hits near the bottom of the lineup, decreasing his number of plate appearances and his opportunities for RBIs and runs.

Martin was a bit of a disappointment to some folks, particularly some in pretty competitive leagues, in 2014. It’s not his fault – the expectations or hopes part, not the performance part. It happens. It alters perception, even if just a little.

Martin is still a good fantasy contributor. He steals bases in good quantities. He has a little power, and Globe Life Park will aid his quest to make good on that a few times more than he would somewhere else. It’s OK that he bunts for hits. As Matt Klaassen stated, “Some season he might hit the BABIP jackpot and suddenly people will think he is a star. Hey, it worked for Lorenzo Cain.” There’s a chance. I surely wouldn’t pay for him in the following year, but I’d take a crack at him in case his lotto ball comes up in an upcoming one.

Martin could platoon. But he may not, at least often, for a variety of reasons. As far his position in the order, he batted ninth for most of the 2013 campaign, with some time spent at leadoff, and he spent this past season in a blend between the first, seventh and eighth spots. The latter is likely to continue, based on the likely context of the team next year. Speaking of. …

  • He’s on a team with a good offense, one that plays in a great park for it.

That assessment isn’t true based on this past season alone, of course. Texas was a bottom-10 club in value on offense and finished 17th in the majors in runs scored. But injuries ravaged their club in 2014. They aren’t a lock to bounce back, but the elements are in place, so the prospect isn’t farfetched. Those traits help the floor to be pretty good. Martin could drive in more than 40 runs and score more than 68 times next season, assuming he does about what he already did, because the team should improve.

  • He’ll be inexpensive relative to his base-stealing peers.

I may be one of those people who isn’t comfortable paying for one- or two-category contributors. I don’t really look at it that way, though. If the one- or two-category contributor is reliable enough to chase, then I’m willing to do it. We don’t encounter too many reliable ones, however. That fact doesn’t affect the wisdom of crowds – at least not enough.

The crowd falls victim to recency bias every year. The crowd may be increasing its awareness of the effects of it, but the results probably change only marginally, if at all. Someone will probably pay more than I’m willing for Billy Hamilton (everyone’s favorite thief), Dee Gordon (killer 2014 pickup), Ben Revere (excellent 2014 profit), and Denard Span (who was just a guy, a fringe mixed-league asset, for a few years prior to this past season) next year.

Klaassen was talking real-life baseball, but LoCain is an excellent fantasy likeness for the potential Martin case the writer described, too. Statistically, Cain offered the promise of a little power in addition to 25-plus stolen bases. Fantasy owners grew a little tired of his repeat disappointments, just in time for him, finally, to hit the health and BABIP bonanza in 2014. The reasons I wasn’t willing to pay his price in the past couple of seasons ended up being easier pills to swallow this year, when I bought him in AL LABR. He wasn’t a primary target, but I was pleasantly surprised when the bidding ended at $10. A few dollars matter.

Martin isn’t a great player, but he’s a good fantasy commodity. I wouldn’t own him across the board next year, at least not without reading or doing some deeper analysis of him and gleaning or reaching the conclusion that much is more coming, a breakout lies in wait. But I don’t think that’d be the result of such an investigation. Still, I’d probably be pretty happy to draft him when it was about time to consider him or buy him when the bidding is about to halt, assuming that my assessment of the mood about the player is pretty accurate.

Martin is just a player, one who happens to be pretty good at what he does in terms of fantasy baseball. He shouldn’t cost as much as the other players who mostly do what he does. He doesn’t carry much risk. And he could earn more than what he costs next year just by doing what he’s already done and having things around him fall in place.

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Nicholas Minnix oversaw baseball content for six years at KFFL, where he held the loose title of Managing Editor for seven and a half before he joined FanGraphs. He played in both Tout Wars and LABR from 2010 through 2014. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasMinnix.

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