Pittsburgh Pirates' Starling Marte Showing Off All The Tools In Spring

By Thom Tsang
Derick Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates‘ roadmap to success in 2013 is going to be all about upside.

From players like Pedro Alvarez and James McDonald, the wildcards on the team are going to mean the difference between the Pirates continuing the league’s longest run of futility, or finally snapping out of their historic slump.

It’s in the outfield, though, where the upside factor has been the most evident. Obviously, the team doesn’t have to worry much about star center fielder Andrew McCutchen, but the guys flanking him aren’t exactly known quantities.

Travis Snider has been a top prospect for seemingly forever, but at 25, the Pirates still hasn’t seen the spark that was expected from his change of scenery from the Toronto Blue Jays. There’s major power in his bat, but getting it out consistently has been an issue, and that he’s hitting .231 with 11 strikeouts over 26 at bats hasn’t alleviated concerns.

As for Starling Marte, the guy in the opposite corner? Well, if he keeps up what he’s been doing in spring, the Pirates might only have one outfield spot to worry about by the time the season starts.

From the time he was signed as an international free agent back in 2007, Marte is has always been about the upside. He’d given Pirates fans a glimpse of it in 2012 as a mid-summer call-up, putting together a .257/.300/.437 triple-slash that featured both power (five homers, six triples in 182 PA) and speed (12 SBs), while playing the kind of Gold Glove calibre defense that might even knock McCutchen from his center field spot one day.

If that was what you’d call a preview, then Marte is just showing off in Spring Training now, really. Yes, the glove and athleticism are still there, but add 11 hits in 27 at-bats, including three triples, and throw in a smattering of stolen bases (three), and what he is on the field these days just what was expected of him — the complete package.

He’s even drawn a couple of walks, which is a first for him in his four spring campaigns.

Sure, there are going to be things to work on, like the strikeouts, for example, but as far as the learning process for Marte? Well that’s pretty much over now, considering that he’s in the midst of his second straight eye-opening spring campaign.

Sink or swim, it’s going to be all about showing that five-tool upside consistently in 2013 for Marte. By the looks of it, the 24-year old is more than ready.

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