By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports
CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.
Starling Marte, Outfielder, Pittsburgh Pirates
2012 season: 47 G, 167 AB, .257 BA, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 12 SB, .737 OPS
When potential star players get called up, there’s always a temptation to compare them to other star players. Often times, though, such comparisons are stretches. The easy comp for Marte upon his arrival was Andrew McCutchen. Both are Pirates, both are outfielders, and both flash a rare mix of speed and power. That might seem like just another stretch – after all, McCutchen is a two-time All-Star who finished third in the N.L. MVP voting last year – but there are indeed a lot of similarities between the two players.
For one, Marte and McCutchen put up similar numbers in the minors. In 464 games, Marte hit .303 with 39 homers, 131 steals and an. 823 OPS. In 511 games, McCutchen hit .286 with 43 homers, 105 steals and a .785 OPS. So in fact, Marte put up better numbers across the board than his current teammate. In the Majors, McCutchen got off to a better start. During his rookie season, he batted .286 with 12 homers, 22 steals and an .836 OPS. That was in 108 games, however, compared to just 47 for Marte.
Whether or not he will actually live up to McCutchen’s level of play, Marte promises to be a terrific ballplayer who can make an impact in all phases of the game. His speed allows him to play excellent defense, especially in a corner outfield spot, and to cause disruption on the basepaths. He’s got good power for a player in his mold, launching 17 total homers between Triple-A and the Majors last season. And while the average wasn’t there last year, it will likely improve with time – he not only has hit well in the minors, but batted .520 (13-for-25) in Spring Training last year and is hitting .341 (15-for-44) in Spring Training this year.
One area that needs improvement is patience and pitch recognition, as Marte drew only eight walks in the big leagues last season. He was a little better at Triple-A, taking 28 free passes in 99 games, but not so much so as to alleviate concerns. McCutchen’s walk rate has always been above 10% in the Majors, while Marte’s has never been above 6.5% at any level.
Still, all goes well this year, Marte could hit around .280 with 20 home runs and 30 stolen bases. Long term, those numbers could improve to the point that he does indeed resemble another Andrew McCutchen. He might never get on base as much as his counterpart, but his athleticism will allow him to influence other areas of the game. Pittsburgh is becoming a more competitive team, developing players and signing impact free agents. With a little time, Marte and the Pirates could make waves throughout baseball.
Next up on March 24: Cincinnati Reds