Don’t Pay for Starling Marte

Starling Marte had an incredibly disappointing 2017 season, fueled by his PED suspension that limited him to just 77 games. While on the field, he had his lowest batting average (.275) since his 47-game debut in 2012 (.257), a solid .333 OBP that wasn’t too far off his .344 career mark, and a career-worst .379 SLG (has a .439 career and was at .456 last year). He did go 21-for-25 on the bases which would’ve netted around 35 had he played his average 568 PA from the last four seasons. He was the 23rd overall pick in NFBC leagues last year, but the rough season hasn’t even cost him a round as he went 35th on average in Justin’s draft and then 45th in my NFBC draft-and-hold from Friday night in Arizona.

I understand the enticing speed that Marte offers and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to see his batting average moving back toward his .288 career mark, but I’m not paying that premium for him. You can get relatively similar players who have the skills to replicate or best his outputs for much cheaper. Here are five guys who have the skills to match or best Marte at a better price:

Byron Buxton | Minnesota Twins | 64th ADP in Justin’s mocks – If you’ve listened to the podcast, you know I’m not a huge Buxton fan as he has repeatedly underwhelmed against the massive hype, but I’m not about to deny his wide base of skills. He closed strong and now has everyone drooling over a potential breakout season again which I remain skeptical about, but I think I’d still rather take the discount on him over paying full price for Marte.

I do think it’s worth noting that he benefitted from the same cupcake schedule that saw a late-season surge from Kyle Gibson, but there will still be plenty of bad teams for him to beat up on in 2018, including the Tigers for sure and likely both the White Sox and Royals in his own division. Now if we get to a place where Buxton and Marte are essentially equal cost – which I don’t think is impossible – then I lean back toward Marte, but for now give me the two round savings.

A.J. Pollock | Arizona Diamondbacks | 67th – Pollock’s stock has peaked higher than Marte’s thanks to his elite 2015, but he’s played just 124 games in the two seasons since then thanks to elbow and groin injuries. He’s certainly not forgotten as the 67th pick on average, but he has lost some of his hype for sure. He had 11 HR and 7 SB in the second half (a nice 69 games), though a .183 AVG in August kept him to just a .251 over the sample. The speed is the one area I might question in a comparison with him and Marte, but he’s every bit as fast still according Statcast’s Sprint Speed metric and he did swipe 39 bases in that awesome 2015. I’d certainly take Pollock and the discount over Marte.

Lorenzo Cain | Free Agent | 85th – Some early FA predictions have Cain to SF which would curb his power output for sure, but Marte himself isn’t a great power bet anyway so I don’t think it’d take Cain out of consideration for this comparison. Plus, it could lower his ADP. He broke in 2015, followed it up with a tough 2016, but then essentially duplicated the ’15 season here in 2017. Perhaps trading some of his mid-teens power for more base hits would open up more SB opportunities for Cain as well. He’s never topped 30, but he does 26 per 600 PA over the last four seasons.

Kevin Kiermaier | Tampa Bay Rays |128th – This one might be my favorite of the bunch. Health has eluded Kiermaier since playing 155 games in 2015, but he has 19 HR and 27 SB per 600 PA over the last two seasons. If he can stay healthy, he’s a great bet to best Marte and he comes 6-7 rounds cheaper. Part of the injury risk comes from his all-out defensive nature, but he has guaranteed playing time when healthy. This is a skillset I’m going to continue buying.

Michael A. Taylor | Washington Nationals | 320th – A second double-double season paired with a big playoff has garnered Taylor some attention. His improvements versus righties (career-best .794 OPS) plus the departure of Jayson Werth (well, his contract is up… I guess they could bring him back if they wanna be dumb) could finally open up a chance for Taylor to get a full season of time. Yes, Victor Robles is looming, but he’s hardly a guarantee at 21 years old. Plus, even if you take Taylor and his time does end up getting limited, it’s not like you’re out much at pick 320. Even on the high end, he was pick 274. I could see it rising somewhat in the spring, but I’d be surprised if he wound up inside the top 200 picks.

Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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Great article! Marte is overvalued in my opinion, too, and as you pointed out, his skill set is not as unique as it is thought to be. I would have included Keon Broxton though.