by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There is a lot to like about the Pirates’ Starling Marte, as he brings both power and speed to the table. He’s shown them both in recent seasons, with career highs in home runs (19) and stolen bases (47) split between 2015 and 2016. A career .289 hitter and coming off the following year, what exactly is there not to like:
489 At Bats
.311 Batting Average (152 Hits)
9 Home Runs
47 Stolen Bases
.362 On Base Percentage
.456 Slugging Percentage
.380 Batting Average on Balls in Play
With 34 doubles and 5 triples, it would seem like the power isn’t a “concern” and he’s posted four straight seasons of 30+ stolen bases. It makes sense that people want to see him ranked higher than #21, so why did he “fall”? Let’s take a look:
This is where the big question comes for Marte, and while he’s not likely going to fall into a .260ish hitter there’s a better chance he posts a mark in that range as opposed to .310 once again. The BABIP is the first tip off, but there also is the risk of his poor approach catching up to him (SwStr% // O-Swing%):
Last season he posted a 19.7% strikeout rate, but given the marks above it isn’t a stretch to project it rising back into the 24% or higher range (where he was in ’13 and ’14). Couple that with his BABIP, which is going to fall regardless of his speed, and the potential for a significant regression is realistic.
Even if he were to hit atop the batting order, despite not taking a single AB there last season, his lack of walks (4.7% for his career) and potential drop in batting average is going to limit his opportunities to score. As it is he’s never scored more than 84 runs in a season (2015), and with Pittsburgh’s lineup hardly loaded it’s easy to imagine him falling short of 80. That especially becomes true when looking at where he was utilized in ’16:
With the regression Andrew McCutchen has shown, how can we expect a significant number of runs scored? The supporting cast may be improving, but it’s still not an exceptionally deep lineup.
Marte also is not a significant power threat, even though he easily could reach 15 HR, and the drop in average is going to have an impact in his RBI as well. Could he drive in 70 RBI? Absolutely, hitting in the middle of the lineup, though remember he’s only once surpassed 56 RBI (81 in ’16). Without 30+ HR, he’d need to carry a higher average in order to get there. As we’ve already said, that’s hardly a given.
We can’t underestimate the impact in these counting stats, as compared to other players at his position. It’s not that he won’t produce, but there’s risks involved.
Having ranked Marte at #21 shouldn’t be taken as a slight against him, as he is slotted in a tier that goes from #12-22. Moving him up in the rankings is understandable, as he has the upside of a Top 15 option. We can’t just overlook the risks, though, even with the potential for him to be a 10/40 player.
Sources – Fangraphs, CBS Sports
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Make sure to check out our other Early 2017 Rankings: