Pittsburgh Pirates primed for hot starts

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Apr 2, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Starling Marte (6) runs after hitting a RBI single during the sixth inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Starling Marte

In 2013, Marte batted .327 in April with 2 home runs and 11 RBIs. He led the majors in average for brief stints, but cooled off in May. Last season was quite the opposite; he batted .225 in April with just 3 RBIs. So it seems like predicting how Marte will start the year in 2015 should be difficult, right? Well, there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic he’ll get off to a similar hot start like he had in 2013.

For one, the second half of last season could be a sign of things to come for the Dominican left fielder. He slashed .348/.408/.567 with a .975 OPS after the all-star break last year. His production was one of the main reasons the Pirates climbed into the playoffs for the second straight season.

Secondly, Marte’s having a great spring. Yes, stats in spring training games aren’t always a good reflection of in-season success. But it’s still nice to see a player do well. In 66 at-bats, he’s batting .348 and has 5 steals (going into Saturday’s action). It’s been a good spring for Marte so far.

One last important note: Marte may be poised to play in the most games of his career in 2015. The past two seasons, Marte’s frequently batted in the lead-off position. With the emergence of Josh Harrison last year, and the call up of Gregory Polanco, there’s more speed at the top of the lineup, and Harrison should see the most time in the lead-off role. Marte, now set to begin in the middle of the lineup, might be hit by pitches less, and see an increase in his power numbers. That’s a recipe for success.

Next: Neil Walker: Best Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman in three decades?