I got a lot of questions tonight about when Starling Marte should get the call. The questions probably came because the center fielder went 2-for-5 with a home run, a day after going 2-for-5 with a double and a triple. And based on the questions, a big factor here is the poor performance of Jose Tabata and Alex Presley in the majors.
In regards to the “when should Starling Marte be promoted” question, I’d first put the disclaimer that Marte’s promotion should be based on his performance alone. The performance of Tabata or Presley is irrelevant. The last thing the Pirates want to do is rush their best hitting prospect, risking his long term progress all to fill a short-term need. The answer to “when should Marte be promoted” should be the same answer you’d give if Presley and Tabata were both playing well.
So when should Marte be promoted? The simple answer is when he shows some consistency.
It was only about a week ago that Marte was on a major cold streak. After starting off strong the first few days in June, Marte went 15-for-69 (.217) over a 17 game span, with a .590 OPS. He’s been hot the last four games, enough to make his overall numbers in June look good. But Marte has struggled for most of the month.
That’s been the case all year. When Marte is hot, he’s red hot. But as long as his hot streaks are, there’s usually a cold streak to follow. Consider the following.
**He started the season with an eight game hitting streak, putting up a .286/.342/.457 line in that span. In his next eight starts he put up a .640 OPS>
**From April 28th to May 20th he had a .470 OPS in 62 at-bats. There was a bruised hand in there, but the cold streak started before the injury, and lasted for over a week after he returned.
**Marte immediately caught fire to end that cold streak. From May 21st to June 4th he had a 1.124 OPS in 53 at-bats.
**He followed the last hot streak with the June cold streak I mentioned above, hitting for a .590 OPS in 69 at-bats over 17 games.
**In his last four games, Marte has a 1.310 OPS in 18 at-bats.
Marte looks to be at the start of another hot streak. But I wouldn’t promote him until he limits the cold streaks. If he can go on a 17 game cold streak in Triple-A, then how is he going to fare in the majors right now? We shouldn’t expect him to OPS over 1.000 for an extended stretch, but there is a reason his OPS this year is .789. The reason is that Marte has been inconsistent.
It’s easy to overlook the inconsistent play, mostly because Marte hides it well. So far in June he has an .872 OPS. But four games ago that was .779. A four game stretch where he went 7-for-18 with two homers raised his monthly OPS by almost 100 points, and was enough for people to ask if he’s ready. Four games ago, that question is probably not asked.
It’s because of this that I feel the Marte questions come more out of desperation over Tabata and Presley. Every time Marte has any type of success this year, no matter how small the sample size is, the questions of whether he is ready come up. And those questions have only increased the more Alex Presley and Jose Tabata struggle.
The Pirates don’t need Marte this year as much as they need Marte for the long term. Rushing him to the majors to help out the outfield this year would be foolish, and potentially damaging to their long term plans. The Pirates would be wise to let Marte finish his development and find other solutions for their major league problems. Otherwise, there’s a good chance that they’ll be looking for outfield help in future years, all because they rushed Marte to the majors before he was ready.
Links and Notes
**The Pirates lost 5-4 to the Phillies. Kristy Robinson’s notebook looks at how two-out hits hurt Erik Bedard.
**Prospect Watch: Top Hitters Shine On Mega Pitching Prospect Day.