We spent a lot of this summer debating when would be the best time to promote Starling Marte, who was in Triple-A and hitting well during the month of June. Can you imagine the discussions that are going on in Baltimore right now?
The Baltimore Orioles promoted Manny Machado to the majors tonight. What’s surprising about this move is that he was skipped over Triple-A. What’s even more surprising was that Machado wasn’t even dominating the level. He had a .789 OPS with Bowie, with his last game coming against Altoona, where he went 1-for-3 with a homer.
I saw Machado a lot last year in the South Atlantic League. He’s the real deal. But I think there’s a big difference between having talent and being able to use that talent. Since Machado left low-A, he has put up a .692 OPS in high-A, followed by the .789 OPS in Double-A this year. I haven’t seen him in action since then, so I’m not sure how he’s looked versus the numbers. But I can’t imagine those numbers are heavily misleading.
When Starling Marte was in the “When will Marte be Promoted” phase, the argument in favor of promoting him was “Look at Bryce Harper”. Harper only had a .690 OPS in Triple-A, spanning 74 at-bats. That followed time in Double-A where he had a .724 OPS in 129 at-bats (which came after he was skipped over high-A). Yet Washington called him up, similar to what is happening with Machado now. Harper started off well, but has been struggling lately. His season OPS is down to .745. He had an .860 OPS in May, a .780 OPS in June, .619 in July, and .592 in August.
When Marte was on his hot streak, I pointed to the limited amount of games that made up his hot streak. My suggestion was to keep him down for another month and see if he could repeat those numbers over the long haul. That was early July. The Pirates did keep him down for almost a month. He’s had some struggles since joining the majors, but he’s starting to show some of those tools that had us ranking him so well the last few years.
Probably the most frustrating thing with prospects is that you only get one choice. We’ll never know how Marte would have done if he was called up on July 1st. We’ll never know what Harper could have done if he was called up in June, rather than April. And now that Machado is up, we will have to ignore what could have been had he gone through a normal progression, including Double-A success and time in Triple-A.
In all of these situations we tend to assume the best case scenario. Marte would have had this same success in early July that he’s having now. Harper and Machado would have greatly benefitted with more time in the minors. But we don’t know.
I’m not a fan of rushing prospects. I think patience is the best approach, although you probably know that if you’ve read me for any amount of time. I don’t mind aggressive movements (SEE: Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco to West Virginia, Luis Heredia to State College), but I think there’s a fine line between “aggressive movements” and rushing a player. Aggressive movements are best in the lower levels, pushing a guy to a tougher league to challenge his skills. But when I think you get in to rushing players is when you get in to Harper/Machado territory. Harper barely had 200 at-bats above low-A before making it to the majors. Machado now has 402 at-bats above high-A, although he hasn’t been dominating like he should. And looking back, if these guys have Pedro Alvarez type struggles early in their careers, it will be easy to find out what went wrong.
Links and Notes
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**The Pirates beat the Diamondbacks 7-6.
**Pirates Notebook: Correia Adjusts in Spot Start; Presley in Triple-A to Get More At-Bats.
**Prospect Watch: McPherson Shines in Triple-A Debut.
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