Replacing Starling Marte

Starling Marte was suspended for 80 games on Tuesday after testing positive for Nandrolone back in Spring Training and then losing the subsequent appeal. Let’s be honest, the first thought for most of you was how it impacts your fantasy league, whether you have Marte or not. Replacing him will be no easy feat. He was a firm second rounder all draft season, going at pick 23 on average and falling no lower than pick 36 in NFBC drafts.

Despite losing 10 homers off his 2015 total, he still finished as the fifth-best outfielder last year according to ESPN’s Player Rater. Over the last four seasons, Marte has averaged 13 HR and 37 SB with a .292/.349/.448 line despite only once playing more than 135 games (153 in ‘15). He is coming off a career-high 47 SB and has at least 30 in each of the four seasons. Speed is the driving force behind his value and will be the toughest aspect replace. We’ll look at the potential in-house replacements as well as a group of available outfielders at the various sites worth considering.

IN-HOUSE

Austin Meadows, the team’s top prospect, was the first name to cross everyone’s mind when they heard about the suspension. However, GM Neal Huntington has suggested that Meadows isn’t quite ready just yet:

It’s impossible not to wonder if that’s related to the Super 2 deadline more than anything else. Although, in fairness to the Pirates we did see Meadows at Triple-A for 145 PA last year and it yielded the worst results of his minor league career with a .214/.297/.460. Perhaps the .236 BABIP was the true culprit in that small sample, but he’s off to a meager start through 46 PA this year, too, so it’s certainly not egregious for the Pirates to keep Meadows down for now.

Adam Frazier is the prime beneficiary in Pittsburgh and makes for an interesting pickup in deep leagues, as Mike Podhorzer covered earlier today. Batting average and playing time volume is where Frazier can shine. As Mike points out, he has a career-high of two (!) home runs – set in 2015 at Double-A and then matched in his 66-game MLB debut last year – and he is not a good base stealer with a meager 55% success rate in the minors and 57% so far in the majors. I like Frazier in NL-only leagues, but I’m not sure there’s any mixed league viability here, at least not in 10-, 12-, and 15-teamers.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention Jose Osuna, who was called up to take Marte’s spot on the roster. He was an “Other of Note” on Eric Longenhagen’s Pittsburgh list, cited for his solid power output, though Eric points out that there’s not enough to carry him as a full-time first baseman.

WAIVER WIRES

OK, let’s look beyond Pittsburgh, as most of you with Marte on your fantasy team will be doing this weekend (if you haven’t already). I’ve got players available at all three major outlets (ESPN, Yahoo!, and CBS) so there should be something for everyone. I aimed for 50% or lower, but fudged it a bit with a couple of 51 percenters.

ESPN

Brett Gardner (50%) – The 33-year old outfielder from the Yankees is only hitting .205 with just two extra-base hits (both of them being doubles) so far, but he has an AL-best five stolen bases. Replacing Marte’s speed is going to be the biggest challenge for those who lost him so Gardner could be a nice option. Health has always been an issue for him, but going 5-for-5 already suggest that Gardner is feeling good right now.

Steven Souza (39%) – If you aren’t quite as desperate for the speed, Souza could be an option for you. He has full season averages of 24 HR and 14 SB with the Rays, but unfortunately hasn’t come close to a full season in either of the last two years (110 and 120 games played). That said, you don’t need a full season, you need a half. If some of Souza’s strikeout rate gains are real (career-best 24% rate so far), then he could be a solid run production replacement. His 61% success rate on the bases might preclude him from stealing much if he does stay healthy.

Gerardo Parra (17%) – Leveraging Coors Field is a great way to spike some better-than-expected production in the short term so Parra could be a really good option here. The Rockies play 39 of their next 80 games at home, but maybe you’d want to keep him a little longer and get 44 Coors games as they have a homestand right after All-Star week. There are also trips to Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Arizona during the 80 games so plenty of strong hitting environments.

Yahoo!

Ender Inciarte (51%) – Inciarte is a great speed and batting average play for those who lost Marte… so of course he has four homers already! He is three away from setting a new career-high in home runs after an early power outburst, but I don’t expect it to stick while I do see his .250 AVG heading up toward his career .290 mark.

David Peralta (36%) – Peralta essentially lost the 2016 season to injury, sporadically amassing 183 PA of .728 OPS, but he looks healthy again and ready to rake righties (career .864 OPS). He has stolen two bases already, but that’s not really a major part of his game so you’re buying for power production.

Kevin Kiermaier (26%) – I’m still holding out some hope for a Kiermaier breakout, but even if he is just the guy we’ve seen through 2016, you’re going to get some of the Marte speed replaced. He has averaged about seven homers and 10 stolen bases per half season as a pro, but he did 12 HR/20 SB in 105 games last year so maybe there’s a chance for more.

CBS

Corey Dickerson (51%) – Dickerson’s numbers predictably dropped when he went from Colorado to Tampa Bay, but he did play a career-high 148 games and still managed a strong .224 ISO. Health has been an issue in the past, but Dickerson is healthy right now and as noted with some of the other health concern guys, we only need 80 games to get through the Marte suspension. This is a pure power play so if Marte was the driving force behind your speed, you have to look elsewhere.

Domingo Santana (36%) – Santana isn’t a major speed play, but he can run some and being on the steal-happy Brewers could yield a double-digit SB total in addition to the power production that has always been front and center in his game (career .188 ISO, 23 HR per 162 games). The 24-year old outfielder was tabbed as a potential breakout last year, but was limited to just 77 games. So far this year, he’s flashed the speed and pop with two stolen bases and homers.

Aaron Hicks (6%) – Full disclosure: I’m a Hicks honk. I was calling for the breakout last year, but it never came together. Sporadic playing time and poor performance when he did play made it tough for him to build on a fantasy-relevant 97 games in 2015 (11 HR/13 SB). He’s made the most of his time this year with three homers and a 1.082 OPS, though he is 0-for-2 on the bases. Playing time is again tough to come by, but Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are both 34 years old and DH Matt Holliday is 37 so health could be an issue as the season wears on. There’s a reason this is a deep-league recommendation, though.





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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Turd Furgeson
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Turd Furgeson

thanks for this. its a pretty representative list. tough season ahead