Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com released his top ten outfield prospects today, and had Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte on the list. Marte ranked seventh.
Mayo cited Marte’s Eastern League batting title in 2011, along with his increase in power as strengths. He also brought up that the Pirates could have a good problem on their hands in about a year with Marte and Andrew McCutchen potentially in the same outfield.
The biggest knock against Marte is his low walk totals. Mayo brought this up, but noted that an improvement could make him an even more dangerous all around hitter. With prospects, the tendency is to magnify what a player can’t do. In Marte’s case, he can hit for average and put up a good OBP, even without the walk totals. He also hits for some power, plays great defense, and has a lot of speed. I’ve never seen Marte talked about as more than a top 50-100 prospect thus far, but even at that ranking the question of his plate patience is brought up as a concern on whether he deserves the ranking.
I understand the concerns with the lack of walks, but I think Mayo’s comment puts things in perspective. Marte is a good player, and if he did improve his plate patience, he might be one of the top prospects in the game. It’s rare for a player to play plus defense in center field, hit for average, hit for some power, all while having plus speed. If Marte added even an average walk rate to that arsenal, he would be a rare prospect. I think that goes to justify his place in the 50-100 zone. People tend to look at the rankings as “he doesn’t walk, so should he be in the 50-100 range?”. I think the walks are the reason he’s in the 50-100 range, as he’d be higher if he had better walk numbers.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
Clemente and Marte have a lot of similarities in their game although I won’t compare them too much yet. Clemente was up at 19 so you can’t really compare their minor league #’s much. Clemente swung at everything his first 4-5 years in the majors, but he didn’t strike out much to offset that. I look at Marte’s bb:k ratio this winter and it is worse than it was at AA. If Marte can become a 40+ walk guy and K 80-90 times he could be very similar to Clemente other than maybe he won’t quite hit .320 every year like Clemente. If he stays where he is with 25 walks and 100+ K’s he may be a .260-.270 hitter with a .300 OBP in the big leagues. That would make him a fringy starter depending on how much power he can develop. If I had to guess I would say somewhere in between, .280-.290 hitter, 30 walks, 90K’s, and 30 doubles, 5-10 triples, and 10-15 HR a year along with 25-30 steals. I think everyone would take that. I always thought of Marte as Alfonso Soriano with less power but with Fielding ability. They both have some glaring holes with the approach, but their bat speed and athleticism make up for it.
I’m already on record for believing that walks are overblown, and in Marte’s case I think his minor league walk-rate is not a good indication of his true pitch selection abilities once he’s in the majors. That will come with experience, as with any player. Not his first year though.
Once he gets his feet wet with major league pitching I think he will gradually improve.
I can’t stand middle of the order hitters waiting for the perfect pitch.
It’s why mediocre guys like Adam Laroche and Garrett Jones stand there taking called third strikes constantly with men in scoring position. Middle of the order hitters are paid to swing the bat!
It’s what separates the stars from the superstars, the ability to drive a not-so-perfect pitch safely. It’s what made Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell the greats they were, and on a lesser level, Al Oliver and Bill Madlock the good hitters they were…and Sangy could hit anything!
So very true! You cannot drive a runner in from second on a walk
Clemente didn’t walk a ton, during his prime his BB % was about 6. But he also only struck out about 12% of that time. If Marte could get his K% down just a little bit I think he’d be in good shape (last year he was 17.5% K, 3.8% BB).
Roberto never walked a lot…….I’ll still take him. 🙂