Marte Time?

We, along with the rest of the Pirates fan base, have been tracking the progress of Starling Marte over the past few weeks, including a some updates right here on this blog. Marte, 23, is the Pirates’ top position player prospect, and appears to be ready to get the call to the major leagues.

Marte improved his case for a recall on Monday night, going 3 for 4 in Indianapolis’ 7-5 victory over Gwinnett. He drove in three runs and finished just a single shy of the cycle. He now has a triple-slash line of .291/.353/.510, as well as 11 HR and 58 RBI. According to the Minor League Equivalency Calculator, Marte would hit about .250 with 9 HR and 45 RBI if he received 350 MLB at-bats. The calculator isn’t a great tool and obviously can’t predict the future, but it gives you a rough idea of his production this year and the jump between the AAA/MLB levels.

A frustrated Jose Tabata.

Between Jose Tabata, Alex Presley, Josh Harrison, and a few others, the Bucs haven’t received ideal offensive production from the corner outfield positions. However, the bigger problem is the defense, and Marte is said to be one of the best defensive players in the organization. There have been some serious defensive issues in the outfield over the past few games. Drew Sutton misplaying fly balls left and right. Garrett Jones‘ errant throw on Sunday (although partial blame goes to Jordy Mercer‘s positioning). Josh Harrison’s poor route on Monday night allowing a double and two runs to score. Defense alone is a major reason to call Marte up.

Still, they seem tentative to make the move. A few weeks ago, Dejan Kovacevic reported that he spoke with a Pirates official that said “it’s time.”  On Monday night, Rob Biertempfel reported this odd quote from assistant GM Kyle Stark:

“Remember, we’re dealing with people. So, you don’t know for sure. As much as we’d like to say we know exactly what guys are going to do in different situations, you don’t know. You try to know the guy as well as you can, then factor all that information so you can make the best decision you can. You don’t just rely on performance or rely on superficial stuff. You have to really, truly know the guy.”

Kovacevic came back with his own thoughts, and said that this is “an old Kyle Stark technique, one he’s openly discussed, where they ‘test’ a kid after the kid is SURE he’s due for a promotion.”  He then went on to add “if Marte’s ready, quit messing around.”

One possible reason as to why they might be hesitant to recall Marte is because they don’t want to diminish his trade value. His name has been tossed around in trade rumors the past few days. It seems that he may be part of a deal since the Pirates aren’t willing to part with Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. If they call Marte up now and expose him, teams could see some strengths/weaknesses between now and the 31st. If they keep him in Triple-A and he continues to rake, his value will stay high. To elaborate on this, Ken Rosenthal reported that “scouts and executives from multiple clubs continue to express doubt about the ability of … Starling Marte to become a star.” This same idea was brought up with Indy’s three left-handed pitchers (Jeff Locke, Rudy Owens, and Justin Wilson). Some believed that if they called any of them up, their trade value would decrease. At least one of these pitchers may be traded at the deadline, depending on the moves that are made.

While we pondered this, Kovacevic tweeted that Marte’s value, whether in the minors or majors, has nothing to do with it:

If this is the case, why wouldn’t they call him up? It’s clear that they could use some help, and there’s no reason to keep him down in Indy for any longer. Joey Votto just went down with injury, which will definitely hurt the Cincinnati Reds. The Pirates need to take advantage, especially with their weak schedule. No matter what they decide to do with him, it needs to happen as soon as possible. It’s an interesting time of the year and we’ll see how the Bucs handle the situation.

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