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Andy Marte is Not Dead

Andy Marte completed a backslide of epic proportions earlier in the year when he was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot for a Juan Salas, a relief pitcher who the Tribe claimed off of waivers from the Rays. No team claimed Marte, and Salas was later dumped on May 6th in favor of Matt Herges.

From being a top prospect to major downer, it seems like Andy Marte has been around forever. Dave Cameron already took us through Marte’s fall from grace back in February, but I’ll recap it quickly: Marte first hit the prospect scene after posting a .211 ISO in the Sally League in 2002 as an 18-year old. He showed impressive patience and pop in a tough hitter’s environment in the Carolina League (12% walk rate, .184 ISO) the following year. Marte continued to mash in the higher levels of the minors hit, with a nifty .269/.364/.525 “slash” line as a 20-year old in Double-A, and .275/.372/.506 as a 21-year old in Triple-A.

Going into 2006, by all appearances, Marte was ready for a big league job. Baseball America rated him the number one prospect in the Braves’ system and the 14th best overall, but with Chipper Jones receiving a three-year extension, Marte was traded to Boston for Edgar Renteria. Boston then flipped Marte along with Guillermo Mota, Kelly Shoppach to Cleveland Indians for Josh Bard, Coco Crisp, David Riske and Randy Newsom. To prospect geeks like me, it seemed a little strange to see a supposed future star get traded twice in one winter, and especially for solid-but-unspectacular players like Crisp and Renteria (who was coming off the worst season of his life).

You know the rest of the story. After being traded twice, Marte was terrible for Cleveland and middling in Triple-A, up until now. Last night for AAA Columbus, Marte went 4-for-4 with two doubles and a homer. In his last ten games, he’s hit .459/.512/.892. His overall line is now up to .319/.351/.527 for the season. It would be tempting to write that sort of performance off considering how this is his 8th season in the minors, but Marte is 25 years old, not young, yet hardly Quad-A age.

After being traded to Cleveland, Marte has gone from being posting decent walk rates to being downright hacky, walking in just around 5% of his plate appearances. His BABIP (.335) is a tad high, but doesn’t really show anything super-fluky. Marte is making solid contact, striking out in 16.7% of his plate appearances. His minor league equivalent is .287/.313/.458, definitely not the superstar level, but the Indians will take it, especially taking into account that Marte is regarded as being one of the better defenders in the minors, so much so, he was voted by minor league managers and coaches as the International League’s best defensive third baseman three years in a row (’05-’07). His Total Zone numbers match the scouting reports; in those 301 games, Marte has been worth +31 runs.

Marte still could and should be a productive major league player, even if merely productive is a fraction of what is upside once was perceived as. Since Mark DeRosa has been traded to St. Louis, Jhonny Peralta and his disappearing power act has taken up residency at third base for Cleveland. So once again, Marte has opportunity. Hopefully he can make the most of his next chance, because it should be coming soon.