Avila vs. V-Mart; Fielder vs. Howard | Jason Mastrodonato
With two weeks to Opening Day, Fact or Fiction heads back to the prediction table.
Alex Avila will hit more home runs than Victor Martinez: FACT.
The pitching staff can't stop raving about a kid who hasn't been a catcher more than a handful of years. Avila converted in college, and now the Tigers are asking him to mature rather quickly to become the primary backstop, with Martinez spending most of his time at DH.
Avila has decent pop to his bat, too, and he hit five home runs in 61 at-bats during a late-season call-up with Detroit in 2009. But he struggled to get into any real rhythm last year, splitting catching duties with Gerald Laird, and hitting just seven homers.
Now with Laird gone to the Cardinals and V-Mart's knees requiring a lot of rest, Avila steps in as the every day guy and he should have no problem producing in Detroit's potent lineup.
Pass on Howard for Brewers' man
Martinez on the other hand struggled to hit 20 home runs playing most of his games at Fenway Park last year, after failing to hit the 20-mark for three straight seasons. He hasn't collected 500 at-bats since 2007, and who knows how he'll react to spending most of the game on the bench aside for his few turns at the plate.
Avila is just 24 years old and a rising star. Martinez is 33 and on the decline. I wouldn't draft Avila ahead of him by any means, but I'll take Avila at his price tag over the aging Martinez any day of the week.
Ryan Howard (ADP 17) deserves to be drafted in front of Prince Fielder (ADP 20): FICTION.
Ever since the day Chase Utley came away with this mysterious right knee injury, I've started avoiding every hitter in the Phillies lineup.
Think about it: Without Utley, there isn't a single intimidating bat on that team, and no one to give Howard any sort of protection, not that Utley offered that anyway, hitting in front of him in the order. But with Ben Francisco and an aging Raul Ibanez the two guys who will likely be swinging the stick behind Howard, it's not looking good for the Philadelphia offense.
On the power side of things, Howard's slugging percentage and home run per fly ball rate has dropped in each of the past four seasons. And even though we often forget - because he's only been in the league for six years - he's 31 years old.
Fielder is just 26, and though he's been much more inconsistent, he's also got plenty left to prove and we may not have seen his best. He's taken a much better approach at the plate the past two seasons, and with his contract up at the end of this year, he'll either be swinging away for the playoff-bound Brewers come August or in the middle of a contending team's lineup - either one is not a bad spot to be.
Not only will Fielder probably have better counting stats that Howard with the Phillies' lineup questions, but Cecil's kid will probably beat Howard in the home run race as well.
Jose Lopez will look more like the Lopez of 2009 than 2010: FACT.
Lopez has been a fantasy tease the past three or four years, flashing signs of greatness and then mixing in moments like the entire 2010 season: 593 at-bats, .239 batting average, 10 home runs.
Moving his home park from Safeco Field to Coors Field couldn't be any better for the 27-year-old Lopez, who is looking like the main man at second base for the Rockies heading into Opening Day. He'll have to fend off competition from super-utility man Ty Wigginton and youngster Jonathan Herrera, but Lopez figures to get the majority of the at-bats at second, occasionally filling in for Ian Stewart at the hot corner.
Colorado players have said they're shocked how quickly Lopez has fit in with the rest of the guys, often an underrated accolade for players moving to a new city, and they've acknowledged the important role he'll play in the Rockies' success this season.
Lopez is just two years removed from a 25-home run season in a terrible hitters' park, and with a much-improved lineup around him, Denver should make a nice home for the slugging second baseman.