Winter Leagues: Starling Marte Makes Winter Debut

On Wednesday night in the Dominican, fans got their first chance to see Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco in the same Escogido lineup. Marte made his season debut, hitting third in the lineup and he was the designated hitter. Polanco batted right in front of Marte in the lineup and he was playing his normal center field position.

Marte reached base twice in his Winter debut (Photo Credit: David Hague)
Marte reached base twice in his Winter debut (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Marte singled in his first at-bat, then got hit by a pitch. He struck out in the fifth inning, then again in the seventh. Marte finished his night 1-for-4 after flying out to center field in the eighth inning.

Gregory Polanco went 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI. It was his second straight three hit game. Polanco is now hitting .331 over 41 games. The double was his tenth of the season.

Graham Godfrey started the game for Escogido and went two innings, giving up one run on five hits. He is still a free agent.

Carlos Paulino went 1-for-3 with a strikeout, before being pinch-hit for in the ninth inning. He is hitting .212 through 24 games.

Michael Martinez went 3-for-5 with a double and RBI. He has RBIs in all three games that he has played since signing with the Pirates. He also picked up an outfield assist for the second straight game.

In Puerto Rico, Benji Gonzalez went 1-for-4 with a single, run scored and a walk. He is hitting .371 through 12 games and has equaled his hit output(13) from last year in 26 Winter games.

Ivan De Jesus Jr. went 2-for-5 with two singles. He leads the league with 26 walks and is second with 18 runs scored.

From Tuesday night in Colombia, Harold Ramirez went 0-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch in his team’s 5-0 loss. He was playing his first game since the All-Star break. Ramirez went 2-for-3 with a triple and run scored in the All-Star game and on the season, he is hitting .358 in 22 games, with four doubles and three triples.

On Wednesday, the Pirates announced the signing of Elvin Ramirez, along with six other minor league free agents. Ramirez is pitching in the Dominican and the results are strong. In nine appearances, he has thrown eight shutout innings, giving up two hits and three walks, with seven strikeouts. He is on the Gigantes del Cibao club.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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Polanco RF
Walker 2B
McCutchen CF
Alvarez 3B
Marte LF
Lambo 1B
Martin C
Mercer SS

Frank Restly


I agree for a number of reasons. Bat the lefty after Polanco – natural opening on the right side if Polanco reaches base. You might even consider swapping McCutchen and Marte. Also, you alternate righty bat / lefty bat which is a bit unappreciated.

Pitches per plate appearance from 2013:

Russell Martin #13 – 4.01
Pedro Alvarez #17 – 3.93 (Shocking, I know for a guy that struck out over 180 times and is still top 20 for pitches per plate appearance)
Starling Marte #30 – 3.83
Andrew McCutchen #35 – 3.80

Haven’t been able to find a team stat for it at ESPN or FanGraphs but I suspect the Pirates were in the top 2 or 3 in the NL in 2013. What that means is the Pirates are getting into the opponents bull pen earlier, and with the staggered line up, they will force to burn match up relief pitchers (righty vs. righty, lefty vs. lefty).

And John according to ESPN, Marte led off the inning 215 times (not 119) in 2013:

Leading off the inning he hit .312 (67 for 215) in 2013. In his other 289 non-leadoff at bats he hit .253 (73 for 289).

Frank Restly


Sorry about that. Would it make more sense to bat Polanco 2nd behind Marte. I didn’t realize Polanco was a lefty bat and glove (never seen him play).


Now you tweet that he has re-injured his left hand. How bad is it???




Thanks for the daily updates John. As someone who thinks football is waaaaaay overrated, I appreciated your Caribbean Series comment. Much rather watch that than the Super Bowl. My mother was an avid baseball fan most of her life and always complained about the popularity of football. When she passed away in early 2012, I noted in delivering her eulogy that she left us on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday. I like to think it was her way of saying, “I am not going to sit through another one of these.”


John,what you mean is that the SB is an over- stretched out version of a an already over -stretched game. The pre-game flyover and half time ” shows ” are ridiculous on top of it all.


Ah, the Puppy Bowl. A great way to spend the day other than watching an old Bucco game on the DVR. Just love those puppies!


The Super Bowl is AWESOME when you DVR it….no commercials (you can watch them on the web the next day, anyway), no halftime show and the game is over in under 2 hrs.


I have also timed football games for live action and usually end up between 10-13 minutes, Wall Street Journal found 11 minutes.


Sorry guys, I love baseball more than anything. I was a pitcher. However I love football almost just as much. The way you guys speak of football is the way I feel about hockey.


I don’t like reading “Marte hit by pitch’
I hope he stays healthy and gets to spring training ready to go on day 1.

IC Bob

Get use to Marte getting beaned. He has a chance to break HBP records. They way he turns into inside pitches and the fact he is vulnerable to the inside curve sets up for him to get beaned a lot. It comes with risk but he seems pretty good at taking it in the back


John….I have been on the ‘don’t be surprised if Polanco goes north with us in April’ bandwagon.

It probably won’t happen, but I agree in that I think he could handle it.


Leadoff/John….yeh, you both are probably right. Just wished you weren’t…lol


Polanco will go to ST and he could hit 500 and Hurdle could beg, borrow and plead for him and the media will go out of their minds and bash the Pirates left and right for not bringing him north, but he already has a ticket to Indy and that is not going to change, the Pirates are not going to give up that year of control for a couple of weeks or a month or so.

IC Bob

Thats a pretty good team that has Marte and Polonco playing together. It will be fun to watch those to and Cutch play together.


John, I am a little concerned that Polanco is playing too much, when is the Dominican season over?
Also, do you know of any scouts that are at these games, I am sure there has to be a few.

David Lewis

“Marte singled in his first at-bat, then got hit by a pitch. ”

So you’re saying he’s in mid-season form.

Scott Skink

You’d need to add in the two K’s to suggest he’s in mid-season form.


True dat Scott, though no mention of being thrown out trying to steal 3B with 2 outs. I love that guy and will adore him even more when the baseball instincts outweigh the youthful exhuberance

Pie Rat

It will be interesting to see Palanco and Marte in the same line-up. Marte is coming in a little rusty. Would you read anything into it if Palanco bats better than Marte?



Love the updates and thank you once again. I’ve tried to watch a fair amount of Escogido(though my footage sometimes grainy). I can’t remember where you were with Polanco’s timeline a few months ago but curious if you have seen anything which has changed your mind. I know there are a lot of other factors in play and we have yet to see how Tabata, Snider, etc fair in right field but let me just ask this: I understand it won’t happen but from a purely hypothetical sense not taking into account money, controllable years etc. If you plugged in Polanco in right field on opening day and played him for full season what do you think reasonable stat line would be allowing for growing pains, learning curve etc? Thanks so much

IC Bob

You must be having serious baseball withdraws if you are watching Dominican league baseball on your computer.

IC Bob

I appreciate yours and Tims love of the game it shows up in your writing. Thanks


I feel your pain. I like to watch College football a bit, but after that, sports end for me until pitches/catchers report. I don’t watch NBA or NFL, and march madness is overshadowed by spring training.


John: If the Pirates follow their procedure employed in previous years, it will be June before we see Gregory Polanco. It is called that period for extra seasoning that is needed at AAA, but means that the team is safe that the player will not earn a year of MLB Service, nor get enough days to qualify as a Super Two. I think the Pirates did that for McCutchen, Walker, Alvarez, Marte, and Cole.

The Pirates open a 10 game homestand against the Mets on June 26 – look for Jameson Taillon to start two games during that homestand and for Gregory Polanco to join what will then be the BEST Outfield in the Major Leagues!


MJ, correct except for Walker. He was a Super 2. Not sure if the Bucs miscalculated on him or if they just didn’t use the same methodology. One difference now, though, is that the Bucs and their fans expect to contend this year. So if the production in RF is as bad as it was last year, and Polanco is tearing AAA up like it was winter ball, they should bring him up and not worry about the few million it will cost them in 2 years. Wow, it really is easy to spend other people’s money.


John thanks so much for your detailed input! I greatly appreciate it and remain very excited about the future.

Pie Rat

Looking at it that way, he essentially will have 90 extra base hits and be in scoring position a lot. That would seem to move Marte down to the 5th or 6th spot with Walker batting behind Marte. Why is Mercer always the 8th batter when his average is higher than most of the team.

Frank Restly

The only reason I can think of why you wouldn’t want Marte batting second is the natural gap that opens up on the right side when the leadoff man gets on base. For that you would like a lefty batter, or a righty that can spray the ball all over.

Frank Restly

Hi John,

I was able to find a spray chart for Marte (2012-2013) here:

Ground ball concentration is to the short stop side as you might expect.

Also check this out:

For his short career Marte has a batting average of .282 with no one on base and .254 with runners on (admittedly small sample size).

Walker has a career batting average of .248 with no one on base and .298 with runners on.


John, you make some good points. Counter points though- Marte already sees a lot of fastballs as a leadoff hitter. Pitchers rarely start the game throwing offspeed stuff and noone wants to walk Marte with his speed and stolen base ability anyways. WIth his lack of plate disclipline, there is no reason for him to see more fastballs down in the order, even in front of cutch, in fact the stolen base threat in front of cutch even goes down some IMO because the threat of just walking cutch if he steals


Your reasoning for Marte’s spot in the order is very wise. I’ve been back and forth on the order, but this has convinced me.

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