After a 20th consecutive losing season in 2012 parlayed with a less-than-spectacular offseason, there isn’t much out there to give Pittsburgh Pirates fans a whole lot of hope heading into the 2013 season.
Maybe Pirates’ outfielder Starling Marte is doing his part to change that.
Marte was the Bucs highly publicized prospect who finally made his big league debut a season ago and showed flashes of what all the hype was about, but it has been his performance in the Dominican Winter League that give the Pirates some hope that Marte will begin to emerge as a star in 2013.
Marte wrapped up an impressive campaign in the Dominican Winter League by earning Most Valuable Player honors in the playoff finals as his club, Escogido, completed a five-game sweep of Aguilas in the nine-game series.
He went 11-for-21 in the series, collecting at least two hits in each game and in 11 postseason games, Marte batted .422 overall after hitting .304 in 29 regular-season games.
That is something you would like to see often from Marte, who is penciled in as the Bucs starting left fielder and likely leadoff hitter. If he does, it give the Bucs a solid 1-2 outfield punch with Andrew McCutchen.
However it wasn’t just Marte who had an outstanding Winter League performance.
Pirates’ prospect Kris Johnson threw six shutout innings in the series clincher and also pitched the games that got Escogido into the playoffs, and then into the finals.
The left-hander became Escogido’s playoff ace, pitching 32.1 innings in the playoffs, allowing only four earned runs. Johnson finished Winter League play with an ERA of 0.91, allowing only 37 hits, while posting a strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 50-to-13.