Ben Badler of Baseball America has a list of ten players who boosted their stock in Winter Ball this year. Coming in at number eight on the list was Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte. Marte hit for a .304/.381/.464 line in 112 at-bats in the Dominican Winter League, then hit for a .422/.481/.756 line with four homers in the postseason.
Badler noted that Marte has the speed and arm strength to play center field, but doesn’t have the spot due to Andrew McCutchen. He also pointed out that if the Pirates have any hope of contending in 2013, Marte will be the key reason. I agree with that last point. The Pirates didn’t do much to upgrade their offense this off-season, and the trade deadline additions of Gaby Sanchez and Travis Snider don’t provide any guaranteed upgrades. The bulk of the offensive performance is always going to have to come from internal players like McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, and Neil Walker. Marte is another candidate to bring above-average or better hitting, and the Pirates could definitely use him as another core bat in the lineup.
Seeing such strong results in the Dominican Winter League is a good sign. That’s the most talented winter league, with a lot of major league players, 4A guys, or top prospects in the upper levels. It doesn’t guarantee Marte success for the 2013 season, but it does show that he’s looking good against upper level talent heading into Spring Training.