Sep 23, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Starling Marte (6) hits a go ahead home run against the Chicago Cubs during the ninth inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates: Can Starling Marte Avoid Taking A Step Back?

There is one major concern I have for the Pittsburgh Pirates entering the 2014 season and it has nothing to do with the first base position.

Instead it has to do with the guy sitting at the top of the batting order.

Oct 7, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Starling Marte (6) reacts after striking out in the sixth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in game four of the National League divisional series at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: H.Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports

For me the Pirates success as an offense all lies on the shoulders of Starling Marte as it is very important that, in his second full year in the big leagues, Marte takes a step forward and doesn’t experience a bit of a regression.

On the surface Marte had a pretty solid 2013 campaign, hitting .280 with a .784 OPS, also swiping 41 bags, helping leading the Bucs to the postseason for the first time in two decades.

If Marte improves on those numbers there is a lot to get excited about as when he sets the table and gets on base frequently, the Pirates will naturally score more runs.

However, there are some things to be concerned with.

The 25-year-old Marte hit .327 with 11 RBI, 20 runs and seven stolen bases during April last year. While those are tremendous numbers, they also represented Marte’s best month of the season as he trended downward in most months, despite having a decent August.

You also saw the effects of him not being able to get on base in the postseason where he hit only .125.

Yet my biggest fear is the fact that he won’t improve on being a free swinger.

His strikeout rate was scary in 2013 (24.4 percent, 17th-highest in MLB) and his walk rate was non-existent (4.4 percent, 12th-lowest).

If Marte can’t improve on that in a big way, especially at the top of the order, pitchers are going to keep making him swing at pitches out of the zone. It was very impressive that Marte still put up a .343 OBP and a 5.4 WAR despite drawing a mere 25 walks on the season.

That can’t happen this year.

For the Bucs to contend Marte must improve. If he does, he will not only become scary good, but the Pirates offense should be very potent.

If he does the opposite and regresses, then it goes without saying that the Bucs could be in trouble.

Tags: Pittsburgh Pirates Starling Marte

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