BRADENTON, Fla. — He’s been one of the headlines this spring training. Outfield prospect Starling Marte has been showing his star potential with the Pittsburgh Pirates during the Grapefruit League. The 23-year-old, who is one of the Bucs top prospects, entered Saturday’s game action with a .500 average, .917 slugging, and a team-leading three home runs this spring.
Marte has the potential to do it all. He can hit, hit for power, he has speed on the bases, and he’s known for his defense in center field.
But despite his hot bat this spring, Marte will not break camp with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Marte is slated to open the 2012 season at Triple-A Indianapolis. But if he keeps playing like he has this spring, his debut in the steel city might not be too far away.
“We’re not going to change our mind,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said on Marte breaking camp with the team. “We want a complete package when he comes up here. He’s got some work to do. This is a spring training look at him.”
“We’re not fans of jumping guys from Double-A to the big leagues,” General Manager Neal Huntington said. “There’s a reason why baseball has level-to-level. The players learn different things at different levels. Triple-A is a big level for a young hitter because those veteran pitchers can add, they can subtract, and move the ball around…He’s squared up some baseballs here at spring training and shows why we’re excited about his future.”
Marte said he has no problem not making the club out of spring training.
“What he did was hit balls that were left out over the plate,” Hurdle said. “He’s doing well. We like everything we’ve seen from him. He takes a fierce swing. He’s been very confident at the plate. Against Cliff Lee, it’s no secret. You need to be ready to hit, number one. You’re going to get strikes, number two, so you take it from there.”
Marte had a huge 2011 season at Double-A Altoona. He lead the Eastern League in batting average, hits and doubles, and became the first player in the Curve’s 13-year history to capture the Eastern League batting title. After finishing the season with career-highs in average (.332), hits (178), doubles (38) and home runs (12), Marte was named the Eastern League Rookie-of-the-Year. Marte also set a single-season club record with 178 hits, breaking Nate McLouth’s previous record of 166 in 2004.
“I thank God for the season I had,” Marte said on his 2011 season. “After that, I spent Spring Training working hard to prepare for a long year. One of my goals is to improve on plate discipline.”
This spring, Marte had an eight at-bat hit streak going, a feat that many players haven’t achieved. After appearing in 11 games, 24 at-bats this spring, does Marte think he’s ready for the Majors?