February 19, 2013
Painting the Black
The Pirates Gamble on Marte
Neal Huntington has taken a curious approach over the past year to fixing his lineup. At the trade deadline Huntington netted a collection of irksome veteran hitters with uses during their upswings and too many downswings to overlook. The rationale explanation—and an understandable one, at that—was Huntington had no desire to spare his best prospects while chasing fleeting odds at the postseason. The offseason has since come and gone and few positional player additions were made. Two new faces are expected to make the opening day roster in Russell Martin and Brandon Inge: veterans known for their gloves. Pardon Pirates fans for not sitting rapt in anticipation to see the same group that has scored the fifth-fewest runs in the league since 2011. What makes Huntington's gambit riskier is the status of the one pure upside play in his lineup: Left fielder Starling Marte.
Though Marte predates Huntington in the organization—having been signed by the previous regime months earlier—the Dominican Republic native is a testament to the Huntington regime's patience, and one of the first big-league-ready talents emerging from Pittsburgh's praiseworthy international efforts. The tools-laden perpetual breakout candidate broke out and appeared three times on Kevin Goldstein's prospect lists on the way to making his big-league debut last season. Even now, as a 24-year-old, Marte remains a fascinating talent.
An athletic dynamo, Marte has well above average defensive ability in center field thanks to plus speed and a good arm. The potential for excitement is there on the offensive end as well. Marte's hit tool grades out as at least a five while his in-game power is likely to fall around a six; there's a real chance he joins the 20/20 club during his prime seasons. But if the hit tool enables the power tool then the plate approach empowers the hit tool. A context-free examination of Marte's tools suggest he's a good hitter. In reality the marriage between his approach and tools complica