Starling Marte Boosted His Stock in Winter Ball

Starling Marte put up impressive numbers in winter league ball.

Starling Marte put up impressive numbers in winter league ball.

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.

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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, 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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  • Lee Young

    Marte and our pitching.

    The starters have to be good the WHOLE year.

    • Brian

      Marte has to show he can have plate discipline and hit major-league pitching.

  • Uyerta36a7x

    I love thinking about the potential numbers this guy could put up this year. Unfortunately, I think they are going to have him lead off, which I don’t agree with. I think we made a mistake by not going out and getting a true leadoff guy at some point. I think marte would benefit hitting in the two hole in front of Cutch.

    • Dean Manifest

      I think he’s a 5 hitter.

      • leadoff

        I would say 5 or 6.

        • Ian Rothermund

          I agree with you. People just see the speed and think he belongs hitting lead off. The Pirates just haven’t had a guy with his particular skill set in a long time, and he doesn’t necessarily fit into any particular mold. With Jones and Alvarez on the team, he’s looking like a #6. There really is a serious risk he could be put into lead off just because anyone else on the team would be hitting out of place to go first, just like Marte.

          It just seems like the majority of this team is a borderline 5 or 6 hitter

          • Susanne Klich Langford

            I think right now where his plate discipline is you would want him at #6 but on the pirates with our situation at leadoff you put him in the one whole and hope he can have a .330 obp. With an obp around there he will be pretty valuable because of his ability to put himself in scoring position or better with his speed and power.

            • Ian Rothermund

              Yeah, I have no doubt that he’ll still provide value at the leadoff spot. I think he has a ton of potential. What most people probably have an issue coming to grips with, and even what I had trouble with in my previous comment, is that the leadoff spot only really matters in the first inning. After that, it’s really just a matter of who you want having the most AB’s per game. Considering the kind of versatility in speed, power, and the ability to create on the base paths are all things that should be welcomed in the Pirates lineup. Now that I’ve thought more about it, I would love to see a lineup starting off with….

              1.) Marte
              2.) Walker
              3.) McCutchen
              4.) Alvarez

              Those are the four guys I would want to see get the most opportunities each game for this team. Everyone gets stuck in this, what’s an ideal leadoff hitter, what’s the ideal #2. I remember seeing an article a while ago, maybe even on this site, that essentially stated that the most efficient lineup is one that is structured where the player with the highest OPS bats first then ranging down to the lowest OPS batting ninth. That would even play into the concept of the pitcher batting ninth, not eighth, which I always thought was ridiculous anyhow.

    • leadoff

      I agree, I do not think I would lead off with him, I would hit him somewhere around 6th. I have not heard where Marte hit in the lineup in his winter league games.
      I do not like the idea of the Pirates chasing a guy like Bourn, he strikes out far to much for me.
      I do agree also that the leadoff spot needed and still should be addressed.
      I do not agree with the Pirates that Marte should be the left fielder either, I think he should be the right fielder, the best arm in the outfield should always be in right.

      • Ian Rothermund

        Outs are outs, regardless of strike outs. Also, lets not forget about the 50 steals the guy gets a year as well. I think there are a lot of things that Bourn brings to the table that make up for strike outs. I just wouldn’t like the idea of the Pirates spending the kind of money on Bourn that would be necessary to lock him down.

        • Susanne Klich Langford

          Very dangerous to predict that many steals. We were predicting that many a year for cutch and 30-40 a year for Tabata and look where we are with that. I would be very happy with 25-30 sb and 50-60 xbh from Marte

          • Ian Rothermund

            Yeah, but Bourn has averaged that much, or close to it, for his career. One year Cutch had 20, then everyone was like, here’s a 30-30 guy. I think he can be, but it’s difficult to just assign that kind of production to a guy.

            I would be very happy with those numbers from Marte as well, that would be a fantastic first full season for him and would go a long way towards solidifying him as a “core” player.

      • Ian Rothermund

        I disagree with you comment about how Marte should be the right fielder, as that would be a failure on the management side to utilize defensive tools efficiently. Yeah he has the best arm. But considering the layout of PNC park, the best set up is to essentially have a second center fielder in left. It’s a shorter throw from in front of the Clemente wall to third base than it is from the North Side Notch, and that’s normally where the perceived necessity for having a strong armed right fielder comes from.

        Also, to really break it down. Most hitters are right handed. Most hitters are also pull hitters. Hence, most hitters are right handed, pull hitters. Also, assuming that you would prefer to have your best defensive player handling the majority of defensive attempts would mean that you would prefer to have your best defensive outfielder in either left or center.

        • George Hareras

          Plus Snider’s arm in RF is no joke either

    • Mark Busch

      Having a “true” leadoff hitter, or clean-up hitter, or 2-hitter, is overrated. Sabermetrics have shown that suboptimal lineup construction only costs teams up to one win per season. It’s not worth it to seek out the ideal leadoff hitter, the ideal 2-hitter, etc, because doing so would greatly limit yourself in free agency or trades. Just grab the best players available at the best prices.

      Walker/Cutch in the 2/3 spots shouldn’t be moved imo. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Marte is our best option for leadoff. His walk rate might not be great, but he should hit a lot, and is the best baserunner on the team.

      • Susanne Klich Langford

        Agreed. But the Pirates have consistently had guys with .300 obps…or even a few times worse leading off over the last 20 years. You have to at least have guys getting on a third of the time up there to have a consistent offense and put pressure on opposing pitchers.

  • Brian Bernard

    I’ve been a strong supporter and believer in Marte. It’s unfair to put the burden of success on a player as young as him, and when I view this team I see a core group of players led by Pedro Alvarez.
    As talented as any of the outfielders are, none compare in pure offensive capability to the bull. I see a player who’s time has come. With all his god given natural ability, and his proven dedication to improvement I am convinced that he moves significantly towards the upper echelon of dominant players in the game this year. Pedro becomes the national face of the team this year, and along with Andrew and a really nice mix of young talent, and veterans – this team makes the playoffs.
    The Bull, Cutch and the Cheese, in 2013 – and maybe Cole comes in mid-season to add some extra National attention as we make the push.
    Marte is one of my favorite reasons to watch a Pirate game, I have to watch to see what he might do. Everything is primed for this to be the season the Pirates take back Pittsburgh.

    • clemente21

      Who is the Cheese?

      • NorCal Buc

        Jason Grilli, nicknamed “grilled”, or “cheese”, for obvious reasons – due to his last name and his ability to “grill” a batter with his heater

  • leadoff

    Marte features a lot more than a bat, he is easily the most complete talent they will have on the 25 man roster, but he is young and he will have his not so great moments, I hope Pirate management and the fans are patient with him.

    • NorCal Buc

      leadoff ~ I agree. Look at how the patience has paid off, so far and to date, with McCutchen and Pedro. Marte may not “hit” his full potential until 2015. BUT, his natural improvement could lead to a dynamic year in 2013.

  • risefromtheashes89

    With Marte starting the year here instead of AAA McCutchen, Alvarez, Walker, Jones, Snyder, Martin, Barmes as your starters and a much better bench, A better starting rotation than the beginning of last year, and the bullpen always seems to be a plus, Looking forward to the year. Seems strange when they now need to clear a place on the 40 man, now easy guesses as to whom they will designate. Lot more depth now than in the past and hope the plan keeps moving forward. Cole will arrive sooner than later and Taillon not far behind. Great days ahead.

  • emjayinTN

    The Pirates are doing the right thing by keeping Starling Marte in the leadoff position in the order. For the record, here are the OBP from each league in the minors – Lo A (.377), Hi A (.386), AA (.370), and at AAA in 2012 (.347). With the Pirates last year he posted a .300 OBP, even though he struck out 50 times to only 8 Walks. He will bat leadoff into 2014 and then we will see what is happening in the minors. We had a solid leadoff in Robbie Grossman who will be in AAA this year, but he went in the Wandy Rodriguez trade. By mid-2014 Marte may be our No. 5 hitter following the same developmental path as Andrew McCutchen. We will have 2 or 3 others who may be ready to step into the leadoff role by then. I think we are betting on Alen Hanson, or Ivan DeJesus, Jr. who could be ready later this year.

  • rburgh

    Ivan DeJesus

    • Susanne Klich Langford

      Yeah, DeJesus is definitely ready. He can do no more in the minors. It is just a matter of executing in the mlb now. He doesn’t really have good speed but I will take anyone that can get on, hit some doubles and steal a few bases up there. I have always been a fan of guys that can hit 40-50+ XBH in the leadoff spot. Steals are unpredictible. never understood why there wasn’t a stat on the line for primary leadoff hitters that added their xbh and sb. No matter what any of the sabermetrics guys say…and i am one…a leadoff hitter still gets a guaranteed leadoff once a game and if you have a good one getting on and scoring puts pressure on the opposing starter and changes the game. Getting up early is always better than trailing early. How many bad teams did Tim Raines, and Rickey Henderson…or even Vince Coleman for that matter play on? .280+ and 40-50 walks (If he can only walk that much)a year for Marte along with his 25+ steals and pop will be a nightmare for opponents. We had Cutch for a short time at #1…but we didn’t have Cutch hitting 3rd behind him. Marte may eventually have too much pop to bat leadoff for us…but i hope he can be the ignitor for us this year.

  • rburgh

    Ivan DeJesus DIDN’T raise his stock in the DWL? What the heck is Badler smoking? IDJ has to be at least in the top 5 – leading the league in hitting as a 24 year old middle infielder? Do guys like that grow on trees in Baseball America-land?

    Seriously, I think BA has become a victim of its own success. They don’t seem to allow themselves to give any props to guys that they are not already focusing on in print.

    • Susanne Klich Langford

      Thumbs up to that. Once the pirates win something maybe they will get noticed.

      • rburgh

        I was thinking more in micro terms. I just think they dissed IDJ because they don’t consider him a top prospect. But they watch (or talk to people who watch) the games; maybe he just murdered the 2nd line pitching and got smothered by what he might see in the majors.

  • Susanne Klich Langford

    #8 boost. Wow. What do you need to do to get in the top 5? If he had the offseason he just had and he was in the Yankees system people would be calling him the next great Yankee. This is nothing new. I dont even know why I am bringing it up.

    • rburgh

      Yeah, I wonder who the top 7 were. You’d think that a line that approached .300-.400-.500 from a guy just establishing himself in the majors would rank in the top few. That’s a powerful accomplishment.

  • Susanne Klich Langford

    I was looking at Marte’s winter league stats and found something interesting albeit in a small sample. Marte had 50 AB with runners on base and walked 10 times and had 8 Ks in those AB. He also hit .400 and had 6 of his 10 xbh in those ABs. Good to see he is showing a more patient approach in those ABs. To me it shows a guy who is thinking and showing ability to be a situational hitter…His runners with no one on were not nearly as good. I still hold out hope that Presley will hit better and be a goog enough leadoff hitter to move marte to a more rbi spot. I really dont have much faith in Tabata. He reminds me of Lastings Milledge.

  • FantasyMilitia

    He is a good fit to hit lead off…

    He reminds me of a second baseman the Yankees used to hit lead off when he arrived on the scene.. His name Alfonso Soriano.

    Don’t over think the leadoff position to much.. You only are guaranteed to hit lead of once a game.

    He’s the spark and the guy we want on the base pads when Cutch and Pedro are hitting he can get in the pitchers head with his speed.

    I will be shocked if he is not at the top of the line-up on opening day.

    • Susanne Klich Langford

      Yes, he definitely will be. We dont have anyone else really…unless you put Presley up there vs. some righties. I feel like Presley will be better. If he plays only a little better than his career averages so far he is a decent #4. 54 XBH in 584 ab will help make up for the .302 obp. Definitely a turning point year for Presley. Hopefully we have a Jaque Jones type player in him and not another Chris Duffy.

      • George Hareras

        nice Jaque Jones reference

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