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ADP Debate - Carlos Martinez vs. Chris Archer

The NL Central figures to be one of the more competitive divisions in baseball this season. The Brewers are the returning runners-up in the NL, the Cubs are coming off of the most wins in baseball over the last four seasons, the Cardinals are retooling for another postseason run, and the Pirates and Reds made aggressive moves to make the division even better. Today, we will break down the potential aces of two NL Central teams- Chris Archer of the Pirates and Carlos Martinez of the Cardinals.

Both Archer and Martinez have similar ADPs coming into the season and each are coming off of disappointing 2018 seasons for different reasons. Archer will get a full season in the NL Central after a deadline deal from the Rays last July and Martinez will look to stay healthy enough to keep his role in the Cardinals rotation.

RotoBaller is going to break down all the pressing ADP questions you need to know before draft day.

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Carlos Martinez– Looking To Regain Ace Form

(ADP 127 Overall)

Carlos Martinez is a two-time All-Star that has posted a sub-3.15 ERA in three of the last four seasons. He also had a 3.96 ERA in the second half of 2017 and did not start a game after July 30 of last season. Dealing with shoulder injuries at the end of 2018, the Cardinals (wisely) moved Martinez to the bullpen and then closer's role, a role that he thrived in (1.47 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings). With the addition of Andrew Miller and the emergence of Jordan Hicks, it is likely that Martinez will be right back at the top of the rotation for the Birds come April.

Before moving to the bullpen last season, Martinez was having more than an acceptable 2018 season as a starter, striking out 98 in 100 1/3 innings and posting a 3.41 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. His WHIP was a bit high in 2019, mainly because of an inflated walk rate; after walking 3.2 batters per nine over the last three seasons, Martinez walked 4.4 per nine as a starter last season. Just throwing 64% strikes over those 100 1/3 innings, Martinez's walk issues stunted some of his value. While his walks were bad, striking out nearly a batter per inning was a good sign, roughly maintaining his 9.5 strikeouts per nine in 2017.

When you look at batted ball data for Martinez, the most disappointing thing to see is that his hard hit ball rate has jumped in each of his six MLB seasons. A 37.8% hard hit ball rate in 2018 was very poor, leading to an xFIP of 4.42. Another issue is that his GB rate has dropped in each of the last three seasons, from 56.4% in 2016 down to 49.1% in 2018. In fact, this was the first time that Martinez had a GB rate lower than 50% in a full season since 2012 when he was in High-A. His swinging strike rate was over 10% once again in 2018 (10.4%) and his swing rate on pitches outside the zone was up from 28.8% to 31.5% YoY. As alluded to earlier, throwing just 45.5% of pitches inside the zone could be a recipe for danger, but a good swing rate on pitches outside the zone does show his deception.

Looking at the pitcher Martinez was from 2015-2017, there are a lot of reasons for optimism for 2019. Averaging a 3.24 ERA, 193 innings pitched, 192 strikeouts, and a 1.24 WHIP, Martinez would line up perfectly as a low-end SP2 or a top-tier SP3 in most leagues. There are a lot of reasons to worry about a shoulder injury and there is now news that he has to be shut down for two weeks. There has been recent talk about Martinez moving back to the bullpen, so monitor that situation before drafting the Dominican.


Chris Archer– New League, New Pitcher

(ADP 131 Overall)

Chris Archer has bounced around a bit in his career (the Indians and Cubs as a minor leaguer before playing 6+ seasons with the Rays), but now he has landed in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately for fantasy owners (and the Pirates), Archer is coming off of the worst season of his career, where he posted a 4.31 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. He also was under both 200 innings (148 1/3) and 200 strikeouts (162) for the first time since 2014. So the big question is if Archer's 2018 was just a bad one in terms of injury (abdominal injury in June) or if this is a sign of things to come.

There is one thing that fantasy owners know that they will get from Archer: strikeouts. Before last season, Archer was in the top three of strikeouts in the American League in each of the prior three seasons. He tallied 734 strikeouts in those three seasons and also was top-10 in innings pitched in each season as well. Durability and an ability to get strikeouts is a very good sign, but the fact that Archer's WHIP has risen in each season since 2015 is not. Even though Archer's 25.4% K rate is good, it was down from 29.2% in 2017 and was below his 27.9% career average. He is coming off of a season where he allowed more hits than innings pitched for the first time in his career and even his xBA was .249.

Looking at some advanced statistics, there are some reasons for optimism, even if the numbers are not great. Archer's 38.7% hard hit ball rate is not good in the least, but it is down in each of the last two seasons from 40.5% in 2016. His average exit velocity was not in the bottom 4% of the league like it was in 2017, but it did rise from 89 MPH to 89.2 MPH.

A lot of Archer's value comes from his ability to strike batters out, as he has never won more than 12 games and has only had a sub-3.25 ERA in two of his six full seasons. A move from the American League East should theoretically help, but the NL Central is far from a cakewalk itself. Look for 225+ strikeouts, a mid-3.00s ERA, and hope that he is able to induce softer contact to get his WHIP down.



In review, Archer and Martinez are two very similar pitchers, with Archer showing a bit better control and better strikeout potential. That being said, Archer has also never won more than 12 games and never had an ERA lower than 3.22. We detailed just how unlucky that Archer has been throughout his career, but he is also coming off of the worst season of his career.

All of this analysis may go directly down the drain if the Cards choose to put Martinez in the bullpen (or if he does not bounce back from injury), but, for now at least, the Cards ace is the safer pick. Not only is Martinez a safer choice as a pitcher (walk issues included), but he also plays for a Cardinals team that could approach 90 or more wins after a strong offseason. If Martinez is able to win around 15 games with an ERA in the 3.20s and a strikeout per inning, he will provide exceptional ROI around pick 130.

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