The Pirates made their second big addition in two days yesterday, announcing the promotion of top hitting prospect Starling Marte from Triple-A. Marte will be a significant upgrade over the Pirates' current left field situation and should provide a boost to the offense overall.
Marte will bat at the leadoff spot in his debut tonight and is expected to hold down that slot for the rest of the season. While he remains a flawed player, Marte will help this team down the stretch.
What Marte Brings to the Table
First and foremost, Marte offers production at a position where the Pirates have struggled all season. Alex Presley, Jose Tabata and Drew Sutton have all struggled to provide consistent offense in left field, a position that should be a source of league-average offense at a minimum.
Marte should be able to provide this production at the very least. A .280/.330/440 line is not out of the realm of reasonable expectation, and this would make Marte a strong contributor to the Pirates' offense.
Marte's speed and quick bat should lead to a high average, creating more opportunities for the Bucs' stable of power hitters. He also hits for some power of his own, as he has improved his power statistics consistently in the minors and has already amassed 46 extra-base hits this year.
Marte is also an outstanding defensive outfielder who many talent evaluators say is a better center fielder than Andrew McCutchen. He should cover ample ground in left and enable the Pirates to shift their outfield defense toward Garrett Jones.
Where Marte Needs to Improve
While Marte's speed and potential to hit for average make him a good option at the top of the order, he is not the ideal leadoff candidate, because he takes very few walks. While Marte has improved his walk rate this season, it remains low. As a result, he is unlikely to post a high on-base percentage.
Similarly, Marte strikes out a lot for a player of his style. While his power has increased, a 21.1 percent strikeout rate is still high for a player who relies on batting average to provide the bulk of his value.
Given his speed, Marte can become a more prolific base-stealer than he currently is, but this is less of a concern than the plate approach issues mentioned above.
The Pirates Picked the Right Time to Promote Marte
While Marte still has room for improvement at the Triple-A level, the Pirates picked the right moment to promote their top hitting prospect. Promoting a prospect a month too early is less risky than trading multiple prospects for a veteran solution to the Bucs' left field problem.
The Pirates are in the thick of a pennant race, and Marte looks ready to contribute now without suffering material long-term consequences. Pittsburgh fans have yet another reason to be excited.