First Pitch: Starling Marte Needs Time

Starling Marte had a big night at the plate tonight, going 3-for-4 with a homer and a triple, falling a double short of a cycle. Every time I mention a player playing well, I’m guaranteed to get several “when will he be promoted” questions. To answer that for Marte: not for a while.

The Indianapolis center fielder has been on a hot streak recently, hitting for a .357/.378/.714 line with three homers in 42 at-bats over his last ten games. He also has three triples in that stretch.

Prior to this stretch, Marte was struggling. He did pretty well in April, hitting for a .276/.351/.483 line in 87 at-bats. However, he slumped in May, with a .236/.274/.382 line in 89 at-bats.

The positive is that the power is there. Even when he was slumping, he was putting up an ISO of .146. On the season he has an ISO of .200, which is an increase over the .168 mark from his breakout season last year.

His strikeout and walk rates aren’t too bad. He’s got a 22.8% strikeout rate and a 5.1% walk rate. However, neither of those numbers are strong. Marte also isn’t hitting for average enough to justify the low walk totals. A bigger concern in that department is that seven of his ten walks came in April.

It’s good to see Marte hitting, but he needs more time. He needs to hit for longer than a ten game stretch. Ideally you’d like to see him sustain his success for a month or two. You’d also like to see him taking a few more walks, similar to the rate he had in April. Even in his current hot streak, he’s not taking walks, with just one in that ten game stretch.

The best case scenario for Marte would be him going on a hot streak now, and carrying that over through July. That would allow the Pirates to call him up around the trade deadline for the final two months of the season, giving them a late season boost on offense. Anything earlier, especially with the way his month of May went, and they’d be rushing him.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates beat Milwaukee 8-2. Kristy Robinson points out in her notebook that the win matches the 2011 win total at Miller Park.

**Prospect Watch: Marte has a three hit night, including his fifth homer.

**A lot of mock drafts today: Baseball America, Keith Law, and Baseball Prospectus.

**Charlie Morton was placed on the disabled list today, and Juan Cruz was activated from the restricted list. Kristy Robinson looks at how Morton isn’t the same pitcher this year, and looks at his trip to the DL.

**A look at Matt Hague and Jordy Mercer, who have been playing on the same team every year since their final year in college.

**The Pitch F/X preview for the Milwaukee Brewers.

**Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon were named FSL All-Stars.

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Ian Rothermund

I think, and this opinion goes towards all minor league talent, but these players are only as good as their last stretch of time. I personally don’t take a guy’s season numbers as a first indicator as much as the previous month or two months. These guys are supposed to be constantly learning, so to look at someone’s numbers at the end of the AA season and say, well, he didn’t do as well as we hoped, he only hit .279 with 15 HR. What I would consider more important is that he finished the last two and a half months hitting .305 with 12 HR. As an example, a guy that will receive a lot of attention in this area is Grossman, how does he continue to advance and become acclimated. I think the college bats that have kind of struggled out of the gate are going to receive similar attention, especially Curry and Dickerson, more so Dickerson.

I don’t think in the long run, that the Pirates will benefit greatly from trying to push Marte along. Now, if in the next month or two, he’s tearing it up, then by all means. Since he came back from his hand injury and was finally healed up, he seems to be greatly improved. At the very least he’s that much more consistent. I really agree with Kevin Creagh that this month is very important for him and it’s going to be difficult to hold him down if he has a good June and the Pirates are still down a good outfielder. Not having to trade for an RF near the trade deadline would be very nice, as that would free up space to focus on acquiring a decent firstbaseman. While there’s more room than just RF and 1B to improve upon the offense, in all seriousness, a solid 1B with power to plug into the middle of this lineup could be just what the doctor ordered. I think a package of Hanrahan and a couple other guys might just be enough to get it done.

Kevin_Creagh

Marte’s depressed numbers are due in large part to an extended slump (perhaps 8-10 games) when he returned from his bruised hand. Whether he was still injured or nursing it, his numbers were awful during that stretch.

We are seeing Marte back to his old self, both positive and negative, in this recent stretch. I will firmly contend that if he keeps hitting and the corner OF keep struggling in Pittsburgh, that he will be up in early July.

June is a key month for Marte to consolidate his talents and make a push towards PGH. It will be tough to justify keeping him down if he is hitting .300+ with moderate power and a lot of steals on July 1st.

Buccos Fan

I understand Marte’s walk rates are low throughout his career, and I’m not making this post as an outcry to call him up, but the saying “He needs to take more walks” just bothers me. A hitter is only half (maybe less) responsible for a walk. If a pitcher is throwing strikes and a hitter has a hot bat, I’ve got news, he’s not going to be taking a lot of walks. You only get the pitches that are thrown to you. Indy’s offense is almost as bad as the Pirates; I’m sure opposing managers are telling their pitchers to pound the strike zone, no matter who’s up. Marte’s lack of patience is only part of the equation for his low walk rates. His spot in the batting order and the ineptitude of the offense have a part in it as well.

Lee Young

Clemente and Sangy certainly didn’t walk a lot. Clemente average 41 a season. He did ok.

Buccos Fan

I understand Marte’s walk rates are low throughout his career, and I’m not making this post as an outcry to call him up, but the saying “He needs to take more walks” just bothers me. A hitter is only half (maybe less) responsible for a walk. If a pitcher is throwing strikes and a hitter has a hot bat, I’ve got news, he’s not going to be taking a lot of walks. You only get the pitches that are thrown to you. Indy’s offense is almost as bad as the Pirates; I’m sure opposing managers are telling their pitchers to pound the strike zone, no matter who’s up. Marte’s lack of patience is only part of the equation for his low walk rates. His spot in the batting order and the ineptitude of the offense have a part in it as well.

Lee Young

Clemente and Sangy certainly didn’t walk a lot. Clemente average 41 a season. He did ok.

szielinski

How about the Pirates leave Marte in AAA till the end of the International League season. It would be useful if Marte made gains in his approach and production and then solidified those gains over the course of the season. I say this because his K-rate needs to drop to about 18% and his walk rate needs to climb.

That said, Marte’s BABIP this season is .319. Last season it was .390. The difference might be due to noise; it might be due to a decreased LD rate. If it’s the latter, an improvement in his approach might be the antidote.

Lee Young

I agree….no rush.

Lee Young

I agree that Marte still needs time. Actually, I’m in the corner that he might only be a Sept callup. He has a long ways to go with the bat as you say.

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