Starling Marte was probably the most pleasant surprise of the Buccos’ 2016 season. There’s not much I can say about him that I haven’t said already. He’s good. He’s really good. Remember when he hit a home run on the first pitch in his career, and Pittsburgh Pirates fans (myself included) were already preparing to erect a statue in front of PNC Park because he was gonna be the next superstar? Well, he’s actually that good.
Marte finished the year with a .311 batting average, nine home runs, 46 RBIs, 47 stolen bases, and a 4.9 WAR. Even as good as Marte was last year, there is still potential for so much more. Marte only played in 129 games in 2016, and he seemed even more injury-prone than usual. Also, nine home runs isn’t exactly the type of power production you’d expect from a man with the sheer physical gifts that Marte has. Staying healthy and working on driving pitches for extra-base hits will be key for him in 2017.
I hope he gets a shot to play center field this year. Statistically speaking, Cutch was one of the worst centerfielders in baseball last season. But Marte is one of the best outfielders around. He came in second in the MLB in outfield assists with 17. He has some serious range, too, and can get to a lot of line drives that most outfielders can’t. Even if his routes can sometimes be atrocious, he is a fantastic defender, and center field is where your best outfielder should be in my opinion.
He’s got to be better than Cutch. He just has to be.