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.