by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Starling Marte was arguably one of the best players in baseball in the second half of 2014. Just look at his splits:
- First Half (308 AB) – .256, 5 HR, 32 RBI, 40 R, 21 SB
- Second Half (187 AB) – .348, 8 HR, 24 RBI, 33 R, 9 SB
There’s no questioning Marte’s speed, the question is if he can develop more power and hit for a useful average. Unfortunately, neither is a lock to occur in the coming year.
Overall Marte’s HR/FB was 12.7% last season, right along the lines of his 12.2% mark from 2012. That’s not a terrible number, but he simply doesn’t put the ball in the air enough to think that a significant power jump is coming. Last season he posted a 29.2% flyball rate and now owns a 27.8% mark over his Major League career.
Considering his 23.7% OFB since 2011 in the minors and not a significant number of additional extra base hits (29 doubles, 6 triples), there isn’t much hope. That’s not to say 12-15 HR is bad, just don’t expect much growth from what he’s already proven.
The average is where things get really interesting. Right off the bat we would think his production is going to fall. Overall he posted a 23.5% line drive rate and .373 BABIP… Speed or not, the latter seems extremely inflated (in fact it was the highest mark in the league among those who qualified for the batting title) and unlikely to be repeated.
Of course, he was even luckier in the second half when he posted a .401 BABIP. However, before we completely write that off he also showed a significant improvement in his strikeout rate:
- First Half – 27.7%
- Second Half – 18.0%
While his overall mark of 24.0% looks nearly identical to 2013, it’s not quite the same. That said, we have to keep in mind that Marte continues to be susceptible against offspeed pitches. Overall he hit .216 against them in 2014 and was at .214 over the final three months of the season. Just look at his BA/SLG by pitch type over the final three months:
- Hard – .341/.546
- Breaking – .330/.550
- Offspeed – .214/.357
It makes you wonder why opponents are throwing him anything but offspeed pitches, doesn’t it? Throw in an overall O-Swing% of 37.3% (league average was 31.3%) and that it actually jumped to 40.0% in the second half, and his overall average outlook doesn’t look quite as good.
With it is also questionable that he hits at the top of the order and our overall expectations need to be tempered. Sure he offers some power and good speed (though, hitting lower in the order he may not run as much), but the average is risky. Consider him a good, not great, player for 2015 and don’t expect a significant jump in production.
Sources – Fangraphs, Minor League Central, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Reference