Some are quick to consider Pittsburgh Pirates OF Starling Marte’s early-season success to be the beginning of a breakout.
After being promoted to the majors for just 182 plate appearances in the 2012 campaign, optimism ran rampant that Marte could emerge into a budding superstar next to Andrew McCutchen. Marte’s .321 batting average and 21 runs over the team’s first 27 games have Pirate fans wondering if the breakout could be coming sooner than expected.
To assess the sustainability of Marte’s success, we have to dig slightly deeper into his numbers.
With undeniable speed, Marte will simply need to get on base to have success. The belief, however, that Marte will ever be a prototypical top-of-the-lineup hitter is likely misguided. With his extremely poor strikeout-to-walk rate (50-8 last season and 27-7 this year), which is supported by substantial minor league data, he may struggle to ever reach base at a high enough clip to be a leadoff hitter.
Benefiting from an early-season .402 BABIP, Marte is surely headed for regression, which will likely leave him with an average closer to last season’s .257 than his current .321. Though his speed will allow for a slightly-above average BABIP, his current mark is simply unsustainable.
Additionally, many advanced projections had Marte pegged as a .320-.340 OBP guy this season. If his current .387 OBP regresses towards those numbers, then his runs and steals could easily regress as well. While Pirate fans should enjoy Marte’s hot start, he may be best destined for a role in the bottom half of a strong lineup.
Gabe Isaacson is a MLB writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter at @gabeisaacson.