SleepersJune 3, 2005


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Sleeper Watch

By Arlo Vander

So far, Indians catcher Victor Martinez has ranked among the season’s greatest fantasy disappointments. Following a 2004 campaign in which he hit .283 with an .851 OPS, mashed 23 home runs and notched 108 RBI, owners everywhere were drooling in anticipation of what the young backstop would do for an encore. Many even penciled him in at the very top of their catcher cheat sheets, ahead of such stalwarts as Ivan Rodriguez, Jorge Posada or Jason Varitek.

What those optimists were overlooking, however, was that Martinez had tailed off noticeably at the end of his 2004 breakout season. From August onward, he hit just .238, a hefty 79 points lower than his average between May and July. Martinez’ potential remained indisputable, yet there were reasons not to expect too much, too soon, and to be a bit cautious heading into this year’s draft.

Unfortunately, Martinez did indeed pick up where he left off last October, and has flirted with the Mendoza line for much of the season, causing owners to bench him in disgust. Yet at long last, he may be starting to break out of his slump. The switch-hitting catcher snapped a six-week home run drought by leaving the yard in both of the Indians’ last two games in May. He also picked up a pair of hits in each of those contests to raise his average to .210 after bottoming out at .191 the week before. On June 2, he smashed another round-tripper, this time off Minnesota ace Johan Santana. With six runs and four RBI to go with those three homers, Martinez has outperformed all other catchers in standard 5×5 formats over the past week, quite a welcome change for his frustrated owners.

Victor Martinez may not be entirely out of the woods yet, but this is the best he’s been swinging the bat in a long time. If you’ve demoted him to your bench, now’s the time to get him back in your lineup. And if for some reason he’s been waived in a shallow league, pick him up before somebody else does.

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