Stephen Guilbert: In the continuation of an interview with Pirates blogger Michael Rodgers (You can read the first part here), we cover
To understand just how old he is, he’s actually 14 months older than fellow 2011 draftee Francisco Lindor. Due to that, I’m wary of
At the time of the draft, without the benefit of hindsight, I would have preferred to see the Pirates select Daniel Norris. Daniel Norris is an excellent prospect in his own right and at the time seemed much more likely to sign. Even if he was a notch below Bell in talent, he seemed like the better choice because of the increased probability of him being in a Pirates (well West Virginia Power) uniform this coming spring. That was at least my thinking. There was a theory that was able to gain some traction which suggested the Pirates front office had more knowledge on the subject of Bell's signability and drafted him with more confidence than the average fan or even industry expert did. In the end, I was just thrilled to have both Bell and Cole in the system.
SG: Speaking of Cole, the Pirates #1 pick last year and the first taken overall, did you have your heart set on Cole or was it someone else? It is not that often you get to draft #1 overall—was there any consensus or desire among Pirates fans on who they wanted most last year?
For why I’m high on Marte, I can actually state that I saw him play a few times back when he played for the West Virginia Power. Seeing him in person, I saw the scouting report typical about Marte; A lean, athletic body that could add power, an elite ability to make contact, speed to burn in the field and on the basepaths, and an absolute cannon for an arm. In fact, my starkest memory of Marte was when he, while playing center field, raced out to a ball that he caught on the warning track in deep right-center field. He did not catch the ball on a dead sprint, but he was still moving towards the wall when it was caught. Marte then planted his foot, wheeled, and threw an absolute strike in the air to the Power third baseman who tagged out a player tagging from second base to end the ending. As he trotted off the field, Marte got a standing ovation. I’ll note that the baserunner wasn't a burner, but he wasn’t a clunker on the basepaths either.
Marte was an intriguing prospect coming into this year, but his stock took off with another big season, this time at AA. His biggest progressive development was his power. Marte his 12 HR this year and had an ISO of .168, big improvements in both categories. Marte projects as an elite defensive center fielder, so he could be incredibly valuable if he can get 15 or 20 HRs a year, which seems more than possible. Earlier, I talked about Marte’s elite contact ability. Looking at the stats, it’s pretty clear the scouting report is correct. Marte has been stateside for three years now, and his lowest average in a year is .312. Last year he won the Eastern League batting title by hitting .332.
The big knock on Marte has been his plate discipline. Until last year, Marte barely walked and struck out a ton, well over 20% of the time. Last year, he still only walked at a 3.8% clip, but did lower his strikeout rate to 17.5%, a solid number. Still, that low walk rate is concerning, and plate discipline can be a red flag for players that progress up the baseball ladder as they seemingly are more susceptible to better pitching. I would consider that a generalization, one that is often true, but one that has exceptions. I believe Marte is an exception. To argue my point, I compare Marte’s plate discipline to Robinson Cano’s plate discipline. I use this quote, from an ESPN Insider article:
"When Cano was young, he swung at almost everything," Newman said. "That was because he could hit everything. But over time, he's really improved in that area. He'll never be a player with an even average walk rate, but he definitely swings at better pitches."
I personally believe that describes Marte to a T. If Marte can come close to being the offensive player Cano is, Marte’s ability with the glove to be a plus-plus defender in CF will mean he’s a superstar. That wouldn't surprise me in the least.
Lastly, a cool story about Marte: He was actually scouted as a pitcher (he does have a cannon) but no one was too interested. The Pirates signed him for a mere 85K as an outfielder. It's paid off so far.