Rum Bunter’s 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates Preview: Marty

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 03: Starling Marte
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 03: Starling Marte /
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PITTSBURGH, PA – JULY 18: Starling Marte
PITTSBURGH, PA – JULY 18: Starling Marte /

Team MVP – Starling Marte

With Andrew McCutchen now a Giant, Starling Marte is undeniably the Pirates’ best all-around player. To be honest, Marte, when healthy and not suspended, has been the team’s best player for a year or two now.

In 2018 Marte will replace McCutchen in center field, which should vastly improve the team’s center field defense. Marte’s permanent move to center field comes after the Pirates toyed with it last season before moving Marte back to left field, where he has won two Gold Gloves, after his suspension.

There are few things that Starling Marte can not do on a baseball diamond. He hits for power, he gets on base, he is one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball, and he has elite speed. There is a reason that Marte’s 17.6 fWAR since the start of 2013 ranks 15th in the National League, and this figure would easily be in the top 10 in the National League had he not been suspended for 80 games last season.

In recent seasons Marte has also continued to become a more patient and well-rounded hitter. His strikeout rate has dropped each of the past three seasons, and his walk rate increased to 5.9 percent last season after being 4.3 percent in both 2015 and 2016. Marte being more patient and selective at the plate will make him an even bigger offensive threat moving forward.

If the 2018 Pirates are going to surprise people and make the postseason they need Starling Marte to put together an All-Star caliber season and that is exactly what I expect out of him this season. Marte will be motivated after last year’s suspension, will have a great 2018 season, and will be the team’s MVP.