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2017 IBI Preview Capsule: Michael Martinez

Many fans still have painful memories of Michael Martinez making the final out of the World Series to hand the Cubs the title last year. Nevertheless, the Indians have brought him back to camp this spring with the idea of him potentially coming off the bench again in 2017. The IBI's Jake Dungan previews what that could entail.

The IBI Preview Capsules are back for 2017 as Jake Dungan takes an in-depth look at all the players who could impact the Tribe in the upcoming season from the established stars to the prospects on the verge of being called up to the majors to the non-roster invites to spring training.

Michael Martinez, UT

Throws: Right -- Bats: Switch -- Entering his age-34 season -- Contract: Minor league deal with invite to spring training

2016 In Review: For Michael Martinez, 2016 actually started out pretty well as the veteran utility player was called up in mid-May and then proceeded to bat .298 with a homer and three RBI's in, albeit, limited at-bats over the course of 31 games. Over the next four months, however, that promising start would spiral into being designated for assignment by the Tribe; being picked up by the Red Sox for a handful of games before hitting the waiver wire again; returning to Cleveland to finish out the regular season and postseason, all while batting just .159 with no homers and one RBI, and then, of course, having the unfortunate honor of recording the final out of Game 7 of the World Series to end both the Indians' potential rally and the infamous 108-year championship drought for the Chicago Cubs. Many fans still have a sour taste in their mouths over that final highlight, hope springs anew in 2017 and in Goodyear as the 34-year-old is looking to make the team once again and try to put that moment behind him.

Versus Right-handers: With a switch hitter you would hope and expect that they can put up decent numbers from both sides of the plate. Well, Martinez does have balance in his splits, but unfortunately neither side has stats worth writing home about. Against right-handed pitching, the Dominican native has had a lesser average of .192, but slightly better on-base and power numbers with 28 of his 32 career walks and 18 of his 23 extra-base hits coming against right-handers, adding up to a .524 OPS over 267 career big league games. Last season's numbers added up similarly with a .231 average and .588 OPS, plus all but one of his extra-base hits and walks coming when batting from the left side.

Versus Left-handers: Despite having a higher career batting average against southpaws, Martinez's exposure has been far more limited against them than right-handers. Maybe it's just a coincidence since there are certainly many more right-handed pitchers in the league and the veteran utility player has not gotten enough plate appearances under his belt to even those numbers out more. Over parts of six major league seasons, Martinez has batted .206 with one homer, nine RBI's and a .470 OPS against left-handers. Last season, between Cleveland and Boston, he batted .250 with only the one lone extra-base hit and one RBI in 38 plate appearances from the right side with a .548 OPS. Even with the disproportionate amount of at-bats, you'll know you're roughly the same level of production from either batter's box.

Defense: The real value with Martinez comes with his glove and his versatility. Granted, he's not going to win any Gold Gloves with his defense, but he can and has played everywhere on the diamond other than first base, pitcher and catcher. Plus, he won't hurt you much with his glove as only his play in left field and center field have received negative marks on the whole for his career in one or both the DRS and UZR categories. In 2016, the 34-year-old posted his best metrics in the outfield with four DRS and a 2.1 UZR. Elsewhere, his numbers resided at or near the breakeven point across the board.

Fantasy Impact: Make no mistake about Martinez. He is not going to provide much value offensively even with the little runs and hot streaks he may get on during the course of the year. His primary purpose on a team will be to provide a backup option to the majority of the positions on the field for if and when someone gets hurt during a game or when someone needs a day off. His versatility would allow for a team to carry one or more players on their bench with more upside at the plate for potential pinch-hitting situations. Well, those happen to be two things that Tribe manager Terry Francona thinks very highly of: versatility and roster flexibility, which could help explain why he's so fond of Martinez.

Summary: Since the departure of Mike Aviles to free agency and with Jose Ramirez, in a sense, graduating to an everyday position at third base, the Indians have been in search of a reliable utility player option to keep on their bench. For a while, Michael Martinez has been that guy for the Indians and, his role in the end of last year's Fall Classic notwithstanding, will be up for that job again this spring. He does have competition this year, however, in the form of Erik Gonzalez, who has showcased his own versatility between Triple-A and Cleveland, and Yandy Diaz, who has expanded his horizons beyond third base to the outfield, particularly in winter ball where he saw time at all three positions in Venezuela. Both Gonzalez and Diaz have higher upside swinging the bat, but Martinez does have experience on his side, which could play a factor as Francona likes to keep veterans in the clubhouse for leadership purposes. Fans may not be thrilled if he makes the roster, but if they're at a point where they're taking issue with a bench player, then the team must be in pretty good shape.

Check out our other 2017 Preview Capsules here:

Jake Dungan is the Managing Editor for IBI and a podcast host on the Smoke Signals Network. Email him at jdungan@indiansbaseballinsider.com or follow him on Twitter @JakeDBaseball.


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