Starling Marte will be providing highlight reel tape for The Pittsburgh Pirates for years to come. As we kick off our spring training preview, we start at the top of the Buccos lineup and look at the Jekyll Hyde season of Marte. The 25-year old flashed his brilliance primarily in the first half of the amazing 2013 Pirates season. Marte’s second half of the season was more pedestrian, but let’s take a look at where the Pirates will be looking for improvement in 2014.
Marte led National League left fielders with six errors. Two of those were throwing errors from the howitzer attached to his right shoulder. The errors were lapses more than lack of ability. The guy runs like the wind and saves runs consistently (22 in 2013,) by simply being more focused in 2014, he can continue to lock down the vast left field for the Pirates pitching staff who rely on groundball outs.
Base running efficiency stands out as another area of improvement for the Dominican born Marte who made 56 attempts at swiping 90 feet of real estate. Unfortunately, he was thrown out an NL leading 15 times. When an opportunity existed Marte was off and running in 2013, even late in the year when he wore a kitchen mitt to protect his injured hand. We see Rick Sofield focusing more time on Marte’s running game as the days get long at Bradenton.
When the Pirates were dominant in the first half, Marte seemed to be standing on second base before the game even started. An improved and more patient approach at the plate might be a bit much to ask in 2014, but going forward it’s not out of the question to see Marte improve his strike zone awareness. (Marte swung at pitches outside the zone 37 percent of the time, well above league average, he also was well below league average at making contact-just 57%-at pitches outside the zone-) As long as he gets those soon to be superstar hands out of the way of fast balls, we could enjoy his at-bats so much more this year.
The major Jekyll & Hyde in Martes game is when he faces southpaws. He devours them more than Andrew McCutchen does, but against right-handers, he becomes just another ball player.
Marte had a wOBA of .456 against left handers, just .319 against right handers.
Marte had a monster wRC+ of 199 against southpaws, but a 104 against righties.
Marte had an OPS of 1.053 against lefties, but a more pedestrian .724 when stepping in the box against right handers.
By simply being more consistent, the 6’1″ 185 pounder will improve his production in 2014. We see the Buccos outfielder putting his 3-for-24 postseason behind him immediately and will get off to a hot start in Bradenton as he has done in the past.
Looking at his 2014 season, the BABIP will certainly fall, which will impact his batting average, but he simply refuses to hit infield fly balls, so we predict 18 bombs for the Bucs left fielder in 2014.
Our production models see Marte as having a reduced BA–more like .265 this year, but his overall production will increase in 2014. The Jekyll and Hyde season of 2013 will be replaced with a more solid defender, a lethal base runner and a run scoring machine for the Bucs in 2014.
“Here then, as I lay down the pen and proceed to seal up my confession, I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end.”
Tags: Pittsburgh Pirates