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Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Spring Training Profile: Starling Marte

Starling Marte

Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

Starling Marte has it all — speed, defense and power. When Marte is in left field, the Pittsburgh Pirates are essentially playing with two center fielders with MVP Andrew McCutchen playing next to him. In 2013, Marte started to really get noticed among baseball experts. He still isn’t a household name, but he very well could become one in 2014.

Marte was signed by Rene Gayo, the Pirates’ excellent Latin American scouting director, to a mere $85,000 contract in January of 2007 as an 18-year-old kid. Gayo has really done a great job of finding talent for the Pirates, and Marte is his best find to date.

The free-swinging Marte brings just about everything scouts want in a baseball player to the Pirates. He absolutely crushed opposing pitching no matter what level he was at in the minor leagues.

In class-A, Marte hit for a .312/.377/.439 triple-slash line in 247 plate appearances. When he was promoted to high-A ball, he didn’t slow down; in fact, he got better, hitting for a .321/.391/.438 line in 255 plate appearances. This was just the beginning for Marte; he would somehow get even better as he kept progressing through the Pirates’ farm system.

In double-A, Marte hit .332/.370/.500 in 572 plate appearances. The transition to double-A pitching is said by most baseball people to be the toughest between levels, and Marte excelled. Before being called up to MLB, the Pirates allowed Marte to have some fun in triple-A, where he would hit .286/.347/.500 in 431 trips to the plate.

Once he was called up to the big leagues, Marte made sure to let the fans know he was legit. On the first pitch he saw in his major league career against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park, he hit a deep home run to left-center field. The Pirates knew they had a special player in Marte. If you are a cynical person and want something to complain about, there is one thing: Marte lacks patience at the plate. That’s all.

He would go on to get 182 plate appearances in 2012, finishing his rookie season with a .257/.300/.437 triple-slash line and a 99 wRC+. While his first season wasn’t great offensively, he was outstanding in left field with 4.5 runs saved on defense according to FanGraphs.

Despite a few nagging injuries in the second half of the season that would linger into the postseason, Marte still finished with a .280/.343/.441 line with a 121 wRC+ in 2013. He finished with 7.2 baserunning runs above average and 4.9 runs saved above average on defense. Oh, and he also finished with a very good 4.6 fWAR.

He hit just 12 home runs, but he made up for it with his baserunning and his seemingly constant extra-base hits. He was a doubles and triples machine for the Bucs in 2013. With all the tools at his disposal, there is no reason to think Marte won’t continue to get better as he develops into a true baseball player. 2014 could easily bring a superstar-type season from him.

Zach Morrison is a Pirates writer at Rantsports.com. You can follow Zach on Twitter, you can add him as a friend on Facebook and you can add him to your circles on Google+.