2011 Pirates Prospects Hitter of the Year

Starling Marte is the Pirates Prospects 2011 Hitter of the Year.

Earlier this week we named Kyle McPherson as our 2011 Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Year.  The voting was unanimous, which reflected how McPherson stood ahead of the rest of the pack throughout the 2011 season.  For our 2011 Hitter of the Year, the voting was also unanimous, although that’s not necessarily a reflection of how close the race was.

It should come as no surprise that Pirates Prospects has named Starling Marte the 2011 Hitter of the Year.  We came in to the season higher on him than everyone else.  He was our number two prospect in the system, and no individual writer had him lower than third.  There were a lot of question marks surrounding Marte in his jump to AA this year.  There were questions about whether he would hit for any kind of power.  There were concerns on whether he could continue hitting for average with a high strikeout ratio and a low walk ratio.

Marte answered all sorts of questions in his jump from high-A to AA.  He hit for a .332/.370/.500 line, winning the Eastern League batting title in the process.  He showed some power with 12 home runs, which more than doubled his US career total of five coming in to the season, and followed a year where he didn’t hit any homers in 222 at-bats in high-A.  His secondary numbers also saw improvements.  He slashed his strikeout rate from 26.6% in high-A in 2010 to 18.7% in AA in 2011.  His walk rate remained low, and actually took a drop, going from 4.7% in 2010 to 3.8% in 2011.  However, his contact skills stood the test in his jump to the AA level, leading to a high average and on-base percentage, despite the low walk totals.

Starling was in the top five in the Pirates’ minor league organization in plate appearances (4th), at-bats (1st), runs (2nd), hits (1st), doubles (1st), triples (4th), stolen bases (5th), batting average (2nd among full season players), slugging percentage (3rd among full season players), OPS (2nd among full season players), and total bases (1st).

Marte did have some competition.  Ramon Cabrera put up a great season in high-A, with a .343/.410/.471 line in 327 at-bats, and leading all full season players in batting average and OPS.  However, Cabrera had over 200 fewer at-bats than Marte, and had his performance at a lower level, giving Marte the edge.

Robbie Grossman also had an amazing season for the Bradenton Marauders.  He led the organization in walks, runs, and led the full season players in on-base percentage.  He became the first minor league player to walk 100 times and score 100 runs in the same season since Nick Swisher in 2004.  He also led the entire minor leagues in runs and walks.  Like Marte, Grossman also showed some power for the first time in his career.  Grossman had an outstanding season, but the difference between high-A and AA played a part, and Marte had similar numbers, even though Grossman had the notable walk and run accomplishments.

Matt Hague was also a strong candidate after hitting for a .309/.372/.457 line in 534 at-bats at the AAA level.  Hague probably would have taken the award with a more consistent stat line.  He had an OPS of .699 in April and .782 in May, before blowing up with a 1.094 OPS in June.  He dipped again to .747 in August.  By comparison, Marte was consistent all year, only having one bad month, in July, but making up for that with a huge month in August.

Alex Presley would have been the winner of this award with more time in the minors.  He hit for a .330/.386/.480 line in 348 at-bats in AAA, before getting promoted to Pittsburgh, where he’s hit for a .309/.358/.461 line in 165 at-bats.  The latter accomplishment is far more important than winning the Minor League Hitter of the Year award for the second straight year.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6KEYHS3XWH74U3LRIHGWL7XPBA Nate

    Grossman gets the most patient hitter of the year.  100+ walks = huge.

  • Anonymous

    With Grossman and Marte around, not to mention a bevy of good arms in the minors, that the Pirates could make a trade or two for quality pieces for the major league team?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AGRPLJJRC5GNBYXDY6LHF2U6DU white angus

      im with you on this one.  you sometimes have to deal prospects to become a better MLB team.  its called a FARM system for a reason.  if you dont sell anything from your farm, you really just have a big garden.

      hell, if we continue to struggle signing Cutch long term, it would be interesting to see whom we could get back for him.

      • Anonymous

        White Angus, I was thinking about the return on McCutchen this morning and I think any deal for McCutchen MUST start with a pitcher in the Vance Worley mold and a Starlin Castro clone for SS.  Who would you target in a return for McCutchen?

      • http://twitter.com/bucco_resist Ian Rothermund

        It depends if the deal is worth it.  Whenever someone wants Tabata and another top prospect in the organization like Houston did for Pence, that isn’t worth it.  Pence only has one more season in his contract, then he would just leave Pittsburgh for the massive pay day I’m sure he’ll get.  So the only kind of deal that would make sense is if we could acquire players with several years left on their deals, but that also means the price tag goes up.  I think if they’re going to attempt some trades, it needs to be about the time the guys in the A-ball teams from this year get to AA and AAA.  That gives time to acquire more amateur talent, so if they do deal someone, their absence isn’t missed as much.  Also, it gives guys time to continue to improve and build more value in the minors.  Albert Pujols WAR this year was 5.2.  While Lyle Overbay and Garrett Jones, who took the majority of games at 1st this year, were 0.1 and 1.1 respectively.  By my count, the Pirates are still 21 games out of first place, so still no playoffs even if we had Pujols.  So who would we have traded to get him and still not finish in first place?  My guess is we would have had to give a lot.  So if one player doesn’t change the ship around, what does that mean?  We need more than one, you may even need a few.  You’ll also need current players on the roster to continue to improve.  I don’t think this team will be ready to start trading players in the minors until there’s enough talent that we won’t miss them.  Look at the high minors right now, there are really only a handful of players that have a legitimate shot between AA and AAA to make it.  If we traded any of those guys, we’d be shorting ourselves in the short run for new talent, and if we trade guys in A- or A+ it’s very possible we would not receive a good return in the long run.  A.) because we still don’t know what some of these guys will be capable of, it’s still way too early in their careers, but there is promise.  Other teams know this, and since the players in question would be considerably younger and further away from the big leagues, we would have to trade more players.  and B.)  We still own them for another 10 years, where we would otherwise only get a Hunter Pence, or Beltran, or someone like that for only a few months or a year at most.  Everyone calm down, let some of the young leaders on the team to continue to develop.  Then in 2 or 3 years hopefully we have Taillon and Cole in the top of the rotation, while McCutchen, Walker, and Tabata continue to improve.  Maybe Pedro’s even there too.  That’s a lot of players, I wonder where they came from.  Oh yeah, 5 of those guys we drafted, and we got Tabata when he was in AA I think.

  • Anonymous

    Grossman, Marte and Hague-impressive all. None of that trio got promoted. Hague’s 26, so what? Jones was no younger when he came up.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AGRPLJJRC5GNBYXDY6LHF2U6DU white angus

      hague and jones have this in common:  neither was a real prospect.

  • http://twitter.com/pskell02 Patrick Kelly

    My personal choice would have been Hague, but can’t argue all that much with Marte.  I think the higher level of competition is what does it for me.  Take away the >.700 OPS month and he would be the clear cut choice IMO.

  • Anonymous

    Trading future and good players like them for mlb players does not work for me.  Keep the farms system strong and build on it.  Their are way too many holes at the MLB level, where getting one or two mlb players does not fix the problem.  We would still lose just as many games, so why not keep building from within.  We had MLB players like Bay/Sanchez and guess what, still the worst team in the league.  Don’t sell the farm system, then we would be back to square one.

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