Starling Marte Named Best Left Fielder in the Majors

Buster Olney continued with his rankings of the top players on Thursday morning, naming the best left fielders in the game. He has Starling Marte ranked as the best in baseball, citing his outstanding defense as the main factor. Olney also notes that while Marte wasn’t as patient at the plate this year as he was in prior years, which wasn’t patient to begin with, he did hit 19 homers and collect 51 extra-base hits. He also stole 30 bases and was successful 75% of the time, so that adds to his value. Marte hit .287/.337/.444 this past season and won his first Gold Glove.

If you missed it from last week, Gerrit Cole was named the ninth best starting pitcher. Mark Melancon wasn’t among the top ten relievers, getting mentioned in the “just missed” category.

  • Polanco has all the ability to mirror in RF, hopefully next year will be his year.

    • I expect a big year from Polanco this year. It’s easy to point at his HRs and say that he only went from 7 to 9 in twice the PAs… But he went from 9 to 35 doubles. And he had 29 XBH in the second half, which is as many as Marte had in his best half last year.

  • He should have a Marte Par-tay to celebrate.

  • Love watching marte play. Would still like to see him and cutch switch it up.

  • I thought he was more patient this year than any other year. The numbers might not show it, but his hitting approach improved. He swung at a smaller number of sliders in the dirt and 50 feet outside…. 🙂

    • Marte swung at a higher percentage of pitches out of the zone than anyone on the team, and the 7th highest percentage of any qualified hitter in baseball. A career high, in fact.

      • Who cares what % of pitches he swings at outside the zone if he still hits? To many people on this board have loved to point out all the things Marte can’t do (be patient is really the only one). The irony is when we get a player who is patient like Ike Davis we complain because he doesn’t swing enough. Its proof that no matter what happens posters to boards will find something to bitch about.

      • I believe Vlad Guerrero was always high on this list as well

        • Absolutely, even higher, and for his *career* barely struck out 10% of the time. Amazing hitter.

      • It would be interesting to break down his chase rate into close chases and bad chases, because he did seem less prone to the bad chase this year, but may have been more likely to expand a couple inches off the edges than in the past.

        I would argue not chasing uncompetitive pitches is a bigger gain than swinging at more fringe ones is a loss, as long as the number of events isn’t skewed too far toward the latter (which, incidentally, is why I want to see the numbers, even though no one actually keeps any reliable record of it). So it’s distinctly possible that Marte both improved his discipline *and* swung at more pitches out of the zone if you take a more granular approach to the numbers.

        • “So it’s distinctly possible that Marte both improved his discipline *and* swung at more pitches out of the zone if you take a more granular approach to the numbers.”

          I could not agree with this any less, because *nobody* is better at hitting balls than strikes. Allow me to support my case for Marte…

          Starting with the basics, Marte was actually significantly less productive at the plate in 2015 than 2014 (-16 wRC+) despite decreasing his strikeout rate by 5%. Why, because his BABIP plummeted back to earth from superhuman levels (.373 to .333). This is normal regression, as nobody is a true talent .350+ BABIP hitter, so the question turns to whether or not his change in discipline was actually beneficial.

          In the second half of 2015 he became a completely different hitter, posting career low walk and strikeout rates (3.1%/14.0%). 14%! That’s good! Except he achieved this “improvement” by essentially never getting into 2-ball counts; posting career high rates of swinging out of the zone, and contact on pitches out of the zone. Putting the ball in play *should* be a good thing for a guy who runs .330+ BABIPs, but it didn’t translate due to also bringing career *low* hard hit rates and a measly .135 ISO. Making more contact made him a *less* productive hitter.

          We’re not talking about Ben Revere. Marte has plus speed and above average power that *should* lead to ISO’s above .180, but he’ll simply never get there by making contact with balls out of the zone and hitting so many grounders. The best stretch of baseball Marte has ever played was the second half of 2014, where he posted an ISO of .219 corresponding to 12% less ground balls than his career average.

          Quality contact is what Marte needs, even if it comes with a few more strikeouts.

      • There is a difference between swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, and swinging at pitches in the next county

        • Yes, shitty contact resulting in an out and a swinging strike.

          How is the former actually better than the latter?

  • Bill James still hates Marte.

    • Funny, I was just writing something about that on Twitter and came back to see you beat me by about two minutes

      • But, a true honor when you consider that Alex Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes are playing that same position. He carried the Pirates early on in 2015 and then seemed to tire in the second half of the season. I would love to see him work that K/W down below 3/1 Tip of the cap to NH for signing him early for an extended career in Pittsburgh.

        Polanco has the tools to be even better, and I like the fact that he has managed to keep his K/W below 2/1 in his first 1.5 years – it can only get better as he matures.

        • I agree, emjay. I think Polanco is poised to be great. The more comfortable he gets, the more consistent he’ll become. He, Marte & Cole are untouchables, as far as I’m concerned.

  • I’m waiting for him to be named the best center fielder in baseball.

  • I don’t’ disagree with that assessment at all. I was always a bit wary of Marte for his lack of walks, but it hasn’t busted the bubble yet.

    When fielding is taken into consideration, I think it’s fair to say that Marte is also the best player on the team.

    • If his first couple months of 2015 were any indication, he could have a monster 2016 and soften the blow of what they could lose on offense. He and Polanco have to bump up their wRC.

    • Don’t overthink this one, Blaine. It’s still Cutch.

      Maybe only by a matter of one or two wins at this point, but it’s still Cutch.

      • I agree with you NMR. But I’m also with Blaine when you forget all the numbers and go with the good old fashioned eye test. I just love how Marte plays the game. Cutch too though….we’re pretty blessed in the outfield. maybe Polanco can put himself in this argument after next season.

        • I admittedly brushed off the “eye test” line, in all honesty, but the more I think about the more there might be merit.

          Cutch is clearly, and demonstrably, better in every single offensive facet of the game, and while Marte may be *faster* he’s not a better pure base runner. But that defense cannot be ignored.

          I wonder what their WAR values would look like if they switch positions. Marte immediately gets about a one win bump from positional adjustment alone, and I highly doubt his performance suffers with the move. Cutch obviously loses the positional adjustment, but how many of the runs he gives up with his below average arm would be mitigated in left? I could see him being an even fielder, at least, at that position.

          • Move Cutch to RF or LF? PNC LF is no piece of cake. Also does Cutch’s arm play well for RF?

          • Cutch is the slowest fast man in baseball on the bases. Despite a baserunning mistake here & there by Marte, he’s far superior on the bases then Cutch.
            His arm doesn’t play anywhere but DH

            • Or first base. lol

            • Oh, okay.

            • What? Have you ever watched the guy go from first to third on a single? It’s a thing of pure beauty.

              • I used to love watching him go from 1st to 3rd, it’s just that it barely ever happens anymore. He’s become one of the worst basestealers in the league. I’ve seen ground ball hits up the middle that guys turn into doubles because Cutch dogged it. I’ve seen him hit balls towards the gap that used to be doubles that are now singles. He’s definitely fast, he just plays slow. A few years ago he’d hit a ball in the gap & I’d be on the edge of my seat watching him dig for 3rd. It just doesn’t happen anymore.

                • Unless we were blowing it out of proportion lets not forgot the knee issues which may have played a part in ’15.

          • I would love to see them swap positions, though I’ve seen people that are smarter than me say that we need that big arm in our big left field. I’m not sure what they should do, but it’s a pretty nice luxury to be able to even debate about someone being better than Cutch.

            • See, I question just how practical that statement about the big arm in left field really is.

              What part of left field is really any bigger than the average park? The notch. Now ask yourself what throws made from the notch have a realistic shot at either holding a runner from advancing or actually recording an out? Do you ever remember Marte loading up from out there and nailing a guy at second or third?

              I think people just see the distance and space and assume a big arm is needed, but I don’t see much evidence that one actually helps.