2012 was a great bounceback year for Martin Prado, following a 2011 in which weakness from a staph infection and an overmatched batting coach gradually turned him from Bill Madlock into Mike Fontenot as the season wore on, and in which his predilection for self-sacrifice ballooned into full-fledged martyrdom, characterized by a seemingly endless string of two-hoppers to second. Frustrated onlookers began to wonder if this was the real Martin, finally finding the level that his lack of prospect status was supposed to doom him to all along. Instead, in ’12 Prado became:
- the only player in the last 100 years to hit over .300 while starting at least three games in the outfield and at each (non-catcher) infield position.
- other than Joey Votto and Ryan Braun, the only NLer to hit over .300 with at least 38 doubles in three of the last four seasons.
He was a plus defender by whatever yardstick you prefer to measure outfield defense (mine: eyeballs), went 17-for-21 in stolen base attempts, and even threw in a league-leading nine sacrifice flies (surely Martin’s personal favorite result). Perhaps most importantly, once Paul Janish’s helplessness at the plate could no longer be ignored, Prado extended the scope of his versatility to serving as Andrelton Simmons’ injury replacement at shortstop, where he played 92 innings of errorless and surprisingly rangy defense, and the team went 8-3 in his SS starts. Long story short, he was the team MVP this season, will deservedly crack the top 10 in NL MVP voting for a second time, and is as damned fine a ballplayer and teammate as you could want.
As Prado enters his final arb-eligible offseason, Chipper’s retirement leaves Martin the third-most senior Brave. His top three hitting comps on BBRef through age 28 are Jeff Cirillo, Tommy Holmes, and Tony Gonzalez – line drive hitters with low K rates and a broad set of offensive skills. They also all hit a wall around age 32, having no plus-plus attribute to compensate for the inevitable decline in reflexes. However, Prado’s well-known dedication to fitness, in addition to his positional flexibility, may help extend his value beyond what the actuarial tables surmise. I’ll leave the dollar value estimations to others, but there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to be a vital cog to a winning ballclub for the next three or four years.