Starling Marte Lands in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Starling Marte came out swinging.

The rookie deposited the first MLB pitch he saw into the stands for a home run. It’s a fitting introduction for the young outfielder who possesses immense talent but his approach at the plate suggests he won’t fully tap into his potential unless he makes some adjustments.

A notoriously-aggressive hitter, Marte did not post a walk rate of more than 4.9% in his career until 2012 and bottomed out at 3.8% in 2011 at the double-A level. He has very good speed (although he’s raw as a base stealer) which has helped him maintain exceptionally high BABIPs in the minors making him appear to be a better hitter than he really is at this point. With that said, it’s not easy to hit .300 over the course of a full season and Marte has done it each season (in North America) up until 2012; he was hitting “just” .286 at the time of his recall.

Marte is a multi-tooled talent with the ability to hit for average if he waits for his pitch, rather than using his above-average hand-eye coordination and quick bat speed to make contact with pitchers’ pitches; it worked for Vladimir Guerrero but very few others have succeeded with that approach. Unlike Vlad, Marte strikes out too much with K-rates above 20% despite modest power that could produce 10-15 home runs annually. He also has good speed, but he has yet to grasp the nuances of base stealing (21-for-33 in ’12, 24-for-36 in ’11). Defensively, Marte is a strong fielder with gold glove potential with a little more polish. He possesses a strong arm, which should suit him well if he has to play right field thanks to the presence of Andrew McCutchen in center field.

Marte was originally signed out of the Dominican Republic at the age of 18 and was two years older than the typical hot-shot international signee. He was not one of the “big names” on the market at the time and had to work hard to get recognized – especially after posting a .595 OPS and .220 batting average in his pro debut. His impressive physical attributes earned him another shot and he posted an .822 OPS, which earned him a ticket to North America in 2009. Prior to 2012, I ranked Marte as the sixth best prospect in the system, knocking him down for his plate approach. He was ranked right behind recently-traded outfield prospect Robbie Grossman and I kept him off the FanGraphs 100 top prospects list.

Marte is the type of talented young player that often bursts onto the scene and wows audiences for a few weeks or a month and then the league adjusts to him, forcing adjustments that are either made with the assistance of big league coaches after a short period of struggle or results in a demotion back to the minors. Marte is an exciting prospect but his early success should definitely come with a huge caution flag to not overrate his impact. If everything clicks, though, he could develop a similar offensive profile to New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano.




Print This Post



Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


28 Responses to “Starling Marte Lands in Pittsburgh”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. George says:

    Despite his arm, I would expect Marte to be in left field, rather than right, because of the spacious left field at PNC.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Kevin says:

      Left field is lerger in PNC, but we can find other guys who can cover ground in left field. If Marte’s arm is better than McCutcheon’s, I believe he should go to right. Then, McCutcheon to setup another step to his right and help out the left fielder and cover the North Side Knotch better. In my opinion, the arm dictates the outfielders position in this case.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Jeffrey says:

    Not trying to be grammar police. But random question.

    At the end of the second paragraph. Is ‘recall’ the right word for a guy being called up for the first time?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • reillocity says:

      If he was optioned to AAA near the end of spring training, which I believe he was, then yes he was just recalled even though he had never before appeared in a regular season MLB game. Conversely, if he had been a non-roster invitee to spring training then he would have been assigned to minor league camp when he did not make the team, and his contract would have been purchased from the AAA team when he was promoted to the big league roster (and he would then be added to the 40-man and active rosters). Or something like that.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Nick says:

      Yes, assuming Marte was on the 40-man roster prior to his call up. Prior to opening day, anyone on the 40-man is considered on the active roster, and then optioned to the minors. Officially, Marte would then be recalled from his optional assignment.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Sir A. says:

    I’m confused. You’re suggesting that Marte has power potential of 10-15 HRs annually then later state that he could develop a smilar offensive profile to Robinson Cano who is more of a 25-30 HR annually player.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Charles In Charge says:

      Don’t think many people saw Cano getting much past homers, his development as a hitter is special. I think most people saw Cano topping out as a .300+ hitter with solid 20 homer power for a 2nd baseman. He’s obviously turned into a 25-30+ homer (this season anyway) MVP candidate, but who saw that coming? Marte could probably get over 20 homers, but I imagine most would come on the road or he’d have to get traded to more power happy confines.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Pinstripe Wizard says:

        Plus Cano plays at Yankee Stadium which inflates lefthanded home runs. Cano is a special player, but his home run total would probably be slightly lower if he didn’t play in the Bronx.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • YanksFanInBeantown says:

        @Pinstripe Wizard

        He’s a 25 homer guy on the road and a 30 homer guy at home. It’s not like he has Pedroia level splits.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. reillocity says:

    Marte profiles as the type of prospect whose offensive potential will be very much underestimated given the extreme attention that is now given to walk rate. That players who walk more frequently are more likely to be productive offensive players doesn’t in itself preclude a player who doesn’t walk much from being a productive offensive player. I expect that he’ll be a very successful major leaguer given how well his tools (footspeed, arm strength, hit tool, gap or more power) and stats appear to mesh.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • baty says:

      Well, I’d place Starling Marte at around a Carlos Gomez for now.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CabreraDeath says:

        And, that would imply that you have never seen Marte and/or looked at his stats over the last several years. Much, much more power potential than Gomez ever had.

        Gorkys Hernandez is Carlos Gomez, w/ even less power.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • baty says:

        You can’t just look at the numbers through a microscope. Gomez was much younger at every level he played in throughout his career, so I’d expect Marte to show more “power” through his MILB numbers.

        Yes, Marte does have more potential for “power” in his future.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Baty says:

        Phrased better… Marte is a relatively mature prospect. A .200 ISO would be pretty good at this point for him. That’s about where Carlos is.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • quikclipze says:

        Carlos Gomez?? Come on. Marte isn’t Willie Mays but he’s not Carlos Gomez, either.

        Marte’s minor league OPS is nearly 100 points higher than Gomez, despite striking out at a much higher rate.

        He had nearly twice as many doubles and HRs as Gomez (albeit he did play in about 30% more games than Gomez)

        Marte also has a Jose Guillen-esque throwing arm to go along with his offensive skills.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • baty says:

        I don’t see him putting up big time HR/FB rates, so when we see start seeing his GB/FB ratio, we’ll know more. If he’s a guy that’s putting the ball on the ground 50% of the time, I would be surprised to see him get to a 20 HR potential.

        This is a total guess, but with the balance he’s shown so far with HR and 3B totals throughout his minor league career, I’m guessing he is more likely to be a GB hitter. If he’s reasonable with putting the ball into play and carries an adequate HR/FB rate, then you’re looking at about 15 HRs and maybe 20HRs at the higher end (not to focus on HRs so much, but oh well)… Maybe 6% BBs… Maybe in the low 20% for Ks…

        Looking at the more traditional counts, I don’t think a .270AVG., .320OBA, 30 2B, 8 3B, 15HR line would be far off (with definite room to grow). Solid outfield defense, and a strong arm.

        I didn’t mean that he follows the path of Carlos Gomez, but I do think that he’s a guy in a similar place as him right now, but a couple years younger, so he has potential to be better than.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • baty says:

        Now if he shows up putting the ball in the air like Alfonso Soriano does, then we can talk about 30 HRs

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • quikclipze says:

      re walks

      I would rather have a guy up there swinging than a guy who goes up there and looks at 3 pitches down the pipe.

      Walks are overrated. The batter is only half responsible, if that. If a pitcher is throwing strikes, and in this day in age it seems control is more important than ever, a batter really doesn’t have much of a choice but to swing the bat.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • YanksFanInBeantown says:

        But they’re certainly a repeatable skill, and an important one at that.

        A batter shouldn’t come to the plate looking for a walk, but if they aren’t willing to take one they have a serious hole in their game.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. henry says:

    i think the comparison to cano is that he could hit for a high average without a good eye. he obviously has more speed, but less power than cano. although no one knew that cano would develope the power that he has. in terms of body type, marte isn’t dissimilar to cutch, so he could have some power hidden.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Marc Hulet says:

    Power is the last tool to develop for a lot of players and both Marte and Cano were no different… Cano is also definitely helped by his ball park. Cano, like Marte, was a very aggressive hitter in the minors although he struck out less.

    What I will say, though, is that if you pull up a list of players in the Majors with walk rates in the 4-5% range you don’t find many stars.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Preston says:

      If Marte’s power developed like Cano his BB rate would probably spike like Cano’s has. Cano is still a pretty aggressive hitter, he just sees fewer strikes.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. PiratesHurdles says:

    Take a look at Starling Marte’s numbers and Alfonso Soriano’s. I’m not saying he hits 40 ever, but he has more power than 10-15HR (he has 13HR this year already). He can be a .280/.320/.450 guy with plus speed and D.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Stephen Zielinski says:

    Marte doe s not take wild, crazy swings. So far he hasn’t had weak swings where he’s looking to make contact. Nor has he swung at pitches in the dirt, over his head, way out of the strike zone in any way. He’s not out of control when hitting. He just does not control the strike zone and his two strike approach looks to be the same as his first pitch approach.

    He’s still a work in progress. I wished the Pirates had kept him at Indianapolis for the remainder of the AAA season. But…..

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. quikclipze says:

    “Marte is an exciting prospect but his early success should definitely come with a huge caution flag to not overrate his impact.”

    Wait, so you mean he’s not going to hit 81 HR per season with 162 RBI? What a shocker!!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. BeansNRice says:

    Matte keeps improving. This isn’t discussed enough, great players IMPROVE as they move up.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current ye@r *