The situation: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Mariners offense is lethargic in 2015; ranking in the bottom third in the majority of the important offensive categories. With another year of missing the playoffs (essentially) a foregone conclusion, Seattle will call up Marte and hope he can provide a glimmer of hope for 2016 and beyond.
Background: Marte was not a highly touted international signee; joining the Mariners in August of 2010 without much fanfare. After a pair of mediocre seasons in the Dominican Summer and Northwest Leagues, Marte took a major step forward in 2013 – hitting .295 at three different levels – and followed it up with a .304/.335/.411 season with Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma in 2014. Despite a broken left thumb, he’s continued that progression in 2015, ranking in the top 10 of the Pacific Coast League in batting average (.314) and stolen bases (20).
Scouting report: For a player that won’t turn 22 years old until October, Marte has impressive feel for hitting from both sides of the plate. The swing is simple; getting through the zone quickly with a slight load and very little movement before dropping into the contact zone. His hand-eye coordination is outstanding and he appears to pick up the spin of the baseball very well. Though he’ll go through stretches where he can get too aggressive, he’s willing to get on base via walk. There’s some natural loft from his hand drop, but his light build and lack of weight transfer makes hitting for power unlikely. He’s a borderline plus-plus runner though, so any ball hit into the gap has a chance to turn into a triple.
Marte’s offensive skillset is pretty well defined, but the position he’ll play is still very much in doubt. He certainly has the athleticism to play shortstop, but his arm is strength is below-average for the position, and his hands are anything but elite. Second base is the natural landing spot, but the Rainiers have played him in centerfield a handful of times this year, and the reports there – albeit limited – have been positive.
Immediate Big League Future: Because Marte can be so assertive at the plate – if not aggressive – and because the barrel skills are there, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he came up to Seattle and performed admirably. Because he’ll be a guy that relies on BABIP and he’ll be facing pitching worlds better than he had in the PCL, it wouldn’t surprise if he really struggles early on either. I would bet on the former, just because I believe in the skillset, though as we’ve stated numerous times this year, there’s going to be some growing pains for any first-year player. The ceiling is leadoff hitting centerfielder who steals 30 to 40 bases a year with solid on-base percentages, with super-utility man as a nonzero possibility as his floor.
Fantasy Impact: Before we get too ahead of ourselves here, let’s get the bad news out of the way: it’s difficult to see Marte earning more than, say, 120 plate appearance this year unless Robinson Cano’s injury is more severe than we think. Cano’s going to play every day when healthy, Marte is unlikely to completely supplant Brad Miller and he’s unlikely to start over Austin Jackson in center, either.
The good news, however, is two-fold: Marte can really hit and he has the chance to gain multi-position eligibility for 2016. While power will never be a calling card, Marte’s average, stolen base potential and MI eligibility make him of interest to fantasy owners in moderately sized leagues. Are we looking at a future fantasy star here? Probably not. But with Miller firmly settling in as a solid but unspectacular option and Chris Taylor reestablishing himself in Triple-A, there’s a solid opportunity here for Marte to get plenty of time as a supersub should his bat prove up to the task.
For now, only invest in Marte if you’re in a deep mixed or AL-only league with daily lineups and really need help in the middle infield. Moving forward, it’s possible to see Marte as a top-25 MI option in his prime, and if for some reason he’s not owned in your dynasty league, rectify that immediately. It’s okay to hold off in keeper leagues as the upside here isn’t huge.
- 90th percentile: .295/.318/.519, 1.4 WARP
- 50th percentile: .249/.269/.413, 0.2 WARP
- 10th percentile: .203/.221/.315, -0.8 WARP
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now