Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Starling Marte Freed

Well, the Starling Marte era has finally arrived. The Pirates announced that they'll call up Marte from Indy for the Houston Astro series that begins tomorrow.

The team optioned RHP Evan Meek back to Indy to clear a space; they need to open one more spot before tomorrow for Wandy Rodriguez, too. The most obvious move would be to send down glove guy Gorkys Hernandez, currently the reserve OF, for a month and then recall him in September, but that's just speculative at this point. A case could be made to cut loose pretty much any of the Bucco bench guys at this point.

Marte, 23, was hitting .286 with a .348 OBP, 61 RBI, 12 homers and 20 doubles in 98 games for the Indians. He's also stolen 20+ sacks since 2008, and has 131 swipes in six minor/Dominican League seasons, a real plus for a team struggling at the top end of its lineup where he'll likely be inserted.

The Santo Domingo native's arrival has been long awaited by the fan base, but the Pirates seemed in no rush to take the last step with him. Oddly, a short slump may have convinced them he was ready.

After tearing up the International League, he went through a 2-for-18 slump, with some wondering if he was trying too hard to put on a show for the big team. He quickly settled back into the groove, hitting .500 in his last few games, and that seemed to convince the FO that he had matured enough to begin his MLB journey.

The Pirates and Rene Gayo signed Marte from the Dominican Republic for $85,000 in 2007. Marte is the first player from the Pirates Latin American academy in El Toro, Dominican Republic, which opened in 2009, to reach the majors.

He's been on the radar since 2009, when he hit .319 while zooming through all three Class A levels. Marte's breakout season was 2011 when he .332 for Class AA Altoona, leading the Eastern League in batting average and doubles while reaching double digits in homers with 12 for the first time.

Baseball America rated Marte as the fourth-best prospect in the Pirates' minor league system coming into this year. They also chose him as the best athlete, best hitter for average and best outfield arm in the organization. As of July, BA ranked him #36 in their prospect list, climbing from a pre-season ranking of #73.

Like all young guns, he'll have to work his way through the education that MLB pitchers and advance scouts have waiting for him. His knock is that he's not that disciplined at the dish and chases the ball; be sure his big league opponents have that memo. But the Pirates let Pedro work that out in the show, and Marte will have the same chance.

His fielding, though, should be MLB ready after a little acclimation - he's only played 20 games in the corner OF at Indy, having been in center most of his minor league life. Baseball America said that he's "Good enough defensively to spur talk of pushing Andrew McCutchen to a corner."

We won't expect that for a while, but Marte looks like he'll be more than capable of covering PNC's pasture in left, though he can play either corner. The Pirates have options with him - how he'll combine with Alex Presley and Garrett Jones could end up in any of several configurations yet.

His call up may also be the FO's tacit admission that they're not adding another bat, though we have a few more days to see if they can wrangle a stick from the league without roiling the minors too badly.

But hey, they brought in a pitcher and a bat, with maybe more on the way. The FO is all in this year, so let's see where the next two months in these uncharted waters take the team.

(Marte's bio is here.)

No comments: