The Pittsburg Pirates haven’t made the playoffs since…wait, you’re telling me they made the playoffs last year?
You don’t say?
What I meant to say is that everybody knew the Pirates would make the playoffs last year. Everybody saw it coming. Well, yeah, pretty much everybody. Including those guys chillin’ outside the Super America across from Knollwood Mall. Even those guys.
You know the reason the Pirates made the playoff? That’s right, Andrew McCutchen.
But it was also in large part to Starling Marte and his ability to stick in the leadoff position. Besides a healthy ..343 OBP, Marte had the following line in 2013:
Not a bad fantasy line, and certainly welcome for those who got him as a late round steal in 2013. But he’ll be drafted higher in 2014, so we need to know he he can repeat his success.
The 6′ 1″, 185 lb, 25-year-old righty from the Dominican Republic still needs to learn his balls from his strikes. 138 strikeouts to only 25 walks is atrocious. But while his numbers indicate that his OBP will regress in 2014, let’s not crucify the young player for having an impatient approach at the plate. He’s already shown he can adjust and he’ll need to do that in 2014 or we could be looking at another Jeff Francoeur.
Marte will also need to adjust his batted ball profile. In 2013 Marte hit 50.8% of his batting balls into the infield dirt, 21.6% as line drives, with 27.5% being hit as fly balls. But these numbers actually lead us to what’s good.
While Marte’s 21.6% line drive rate needs to improve if Marte wants to keep a .280+ batting average, and his 27.5% fly ball rate needs to increase if he wants improve on his 12 home runs, both these numbers represent an improvement over 2012. In other words, these numbers are trending in the right direction.
Sure, Marte needs to hit more line drives if he wants maintain a solid batting average, as LD% is about as good an indicator of a good average as any other metric. But while his strikeouts work against him in terms of AVG, his speed makes up for that deficiency. The bottom line? Marte is realistically closer to a .270 hitter, but his natural skills could allow that to play up and surprise you.
I’m not even going to spend a lot of time on stolen bases. He swiped 41 in 2013 and it’s a safe bet he gets 35+ in 2014. But can he improve on his 12 home runs?
When Marte did hit one out last year, he crushed it. He averaged 406 feet per homer in 2013, which came just below Chris Davis‘ 406.1 feet. Of course, Crush hit 45.7 % of his batted balls as fly balls, whereas we’ve already established that Marte had just a 27.5% FB rate. He matched that with a mere 12.2% HR/FB rate. So the math doesn’t add up for a 20 homer season out of Marte, but the frame and swing suggest that with even a small change of approach at the plate he might be able to tease us with 18.
I’m drafting Starling Marte in 2014. He’s nowhere near a low risk investment on draft day, but his natural skills and his ability to adjust at the plate suggest that he could have future seasons that are on par with what Carlos Gomez put up in 2014. That makes him an fine pick in round 5-7.