Pittsburgh Pirates: Is it Starling Marte Time Yet?


With the struggles from both Jose Tabata and Alex Presley, one thing missing from the Pittsburgh Pirates offense is production of any kind from their corner outfield positions.

That begs the question of if it is getting close to Starling Marte time yet?

Marte, currently the top offensive product in the Pirates system may be worth the experiment, if even to only jumpstart a Pirates offense that is still 29th in Major League Baseball in runs scored.

He hit another home run Tuesday night and is batting .289 in June, including his current 8-for-20 tear, with an eye-popping 20 RBI. Most important, based on team goals, he’s got nine walks and a .360 OBP.

On the season for Triple-A Indianapolis, the young outfielder is hitting .283 with seven homers and 41 RBI is 73 games. In addition, Marte has 14 doubles, 10 triples and an OPS of .799.

Combined Presley and Tabata are hitting .225 (97-for-430) and have hit eight homers and driven in 22 runs. Presley’s OPS is .615 while Tabata’s coming in at .624.

Quite simply they aren’t getting the job done as a duo.

If one of them is not producing it’s a bad thing but if both are struggling it hurts badly.

Wednesday night Drew Sutton gets the start in left while Presley gets the night off, but looking up down the roster at players that could play a corner spot, neither Garrett Jones nor Josh Harrison is an answer.

To say that Pirates management likes to bring their prospects along slowly would be the understatement of the century, but how often does Clint Hurdle have to watch the likes of whoever he throws out to the corner outfield spots. Then there’s the fact of how much a young kid has to perform without getting the opportunity. That alone can frustrate a young ballplayer.

There’s no sign of a promotion in site though as general manager Neal Huntington told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review earlier in the month that plate patience would be the priority: “We need to help him lock in to a point we feel he’s ready to challenge major league pitching. When we believe Starling is in a position to apply his tools consistently enough to help us win, he’ll be ready for a call-up.”

That I agree with and Marte has struck out 65 times in 283 at bats (once every 4.85 at bats), only drawing 19 walks (once every 14.89 at bats).

Huntington at the same time didn’t rule out calling up Marte before the September period. But once Marte arrives, he plays every day.

That means either Tabata or Presley goes to the bench. Marte is likely to play right field to take advantage of his strong arm.

However when does the potential rewards outweigh the risks involved?

With the Bucs in contention in the National League Central, they are going to need to score some runs along the way. No matter how good they are pitching, calling them contenders is a stretch right now when they get next to no production from both corner outfield positions (and shortstop).

It may be a tough decision, but eventually Marte’s bat has to be considered.

The lineup certainly could use him. Especially at the top, but I wouldn’t bet on it though. If the Pirates track record says anything, Marte could remain in an Indianapolis uniform for a long time.

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