Dubbed by many as Andrew McCutchen v2.0, Starling Marte got his first taste of the Majors in 2012 and performed fairly well (.257, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 18 R, 12 SB in 167 AB). The question now facing fantasy owners is if he could potentially take that next step in 2013 or if we need to temper our expectations.
One of the biggest concerns facing Marte is his ability to make consistent contact. After his promotion to the Majors he posted a strikeout rate of 27.5%. It’s not a truly unreasonable number, considering he was at 21.1% in 388 AB at Triple-A.
Considering his walk rate of 4.4% in the Majors and 6.5% at Triple-A, it is obvious he isn’t the most patient batter in the box. That’s not an ideal combination for a young player just getting his feet wet in the Major Leagues. Veteran pitchers know how to exploit it and, if Marte can’t get the strikeouts in check, he is going to have a hard time maintaining a viable average.
That is the one major concern when we look at Marte, though if it keeps him from hitting atop the Pirates order it is going to mean fewer opportunities to score runs and potentially steal bases. The speed has always been there and the power has grown each season, so it’s his ability to put the bat on the ball that is likely going to determine his value. That said, that doesn’t mean there aren’t questions that need answering.
In 2011 he hit 12 HR in 536 AB at Double-A. Last season he totaled 17 HR between Triple-A and the Majors. That said, can we expect him to maintain his Major League pace?
The 5 HR came despite a meager 24.6% fly ball rate. In other words he benefitted from an inflated HR/FB, which sat at 17.9%. Considering he’s not a power hitter, it is a tough pill to swallow.
It gets a little bit more concerning when you look at his minor league numbers (courtesy of Minr League Central). His OFB% over the past two years has been 26.4% (for comparisons sake, they show the rate for his time in the Majors as 23.8%). In other words, he simply doesn’t hit the ball in the air enough to think he is going to hit a significant number of home runs at this time.
That’s not a bad thing, as he uses his speed to make things happen, just don’t go into the season thinking he is suddenly going to develop into a 20+ HR hitter. Is not likely (though not impossible, either).
Prior to last season Baseball America, who ranked him fourth among Piates prospects, said:
“Marte shows four strong tools and Pittsburgh is optimistic that there’s more power in his bat. He uses his well above-average speed to beat out hits, though he’s still learning to maximize it on the bases, where he can get too aggressive. He chases fewer breaking balls than he used to, but he needs to improve his plate discipline. If Marte gets more selective and starts using his lower half more, he could show more pop.”
From what the numbers indicate, he hasn’t fully taken the steps that Baseball America mentioned. The strikeouts were prevelent. While he had 33 total SB, he was also caught 17 times. He did add some power, though even that could be questioned.
There is a lot to like in Marte’s skill set, but be careful in overvaluing him heading into 2013. He needs to make a lot of improvements, and do it at the highest level. In fact, given the depth the Pirates have in the OF, don’t be surprised to see him spending time at Triple-A once again this season.
What are your thoughts of Marte? Do you see him making a big splash in 2013? Why or why not?
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