Starling Marte entered the 2015 season with a career-high of 13 home runs. Through the season’s first month, he already has half-a-dozen to his credit – which is the result of an impressive power streak by the Pittsburgh Pirates’ outfielder to open the campaign.
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The 26-year-old outfielder leads the Bucs with his six homers, and ranks third in the entire National League, trailing only Adrian Gonalez of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds. His power output has been a pleasant surprise, but it has also come with a cost.
In 73 at-bats, Marte has struck out 27 times this year – which equates to 36.9 percent of the time. This is way above-average, but right in-line with his numbers from last March/April, when he punched out roughly 35 percent of the time. However, last year, he amassed those strikeouts without producing much of anything offensively.
The first month of the 2014 season equated to a mere one home run and three runs batted in, totaling 32 bases for Marte, who brought a lot of excitement to Pittsburgh when he first joined the big league club back in 2012 at the ripe age of 23.
Thankfully for the Pirates, this year has proved to be a very different story for the Dominican Republic native. In five fewer games, Marte already has 38 total bases under his belt to go along with his six homers and 17 RBI. For someone known primarily for his athleticism and speed, these numbers paint a very different picture.
Marte brought plenty to the table even without power – averaging a .280/.340/.450 slash-line to go along with 34 stolen bases per 162 games through Thursday’s off-day – spanning 338 games. Manning the corner outfield spots for Clint Hurdle, he has teamed up with Andrew McCutchen to provide two-thirds of perhaps the most dangerous outfield in all of Major League Baseball.
Typically a slow-starter, Marte will have to show that he can, at the very least, deliver on a consistent basis if he wants to take the next step in his career. Right now, he’s widely regarded as a very talented young player – but little more than that. Pittsburgh locked him up on a team-friendly, six-year $31 million deal in hopes that he would break out for the Bucs; and it could prove to be another good call by the front office should this prove to be more than a hot streak.
For now though, the team – and fans – need to take this for what it is: an impressive start to the 2015 season by a player who has all the makings of a perennial All-Star in Pittsburgh. Last season, he had good months and bad months – but if he can produce either through his speed or his new-found power, the down months will still be an asset to this already-dangerous lineup.