The Arizona Diamondbacks finished second in the NL West last season and have made a flurry of moves to close the gap between them and the division-winning Los Angeles Dodgers. So far, they have shored up their outfield with the trade for Mark Trumbo and their bullpen with the trade for Addison Reed. They also will likely be a top player for one of the top pitchers on the market, including Masahiro Tanaka and Matt Garza. If the team does sign a top pitcher, the Diamondbacks would be a team with few obvious holes.
When looking over the list of MiLB free agent signings for the Diamondbacks, one name stands out: Andy Marte. Marte was a three-time Baseball America top-15 prospect in MLB with the Braves and Indians in the middle of the last decade. He once put up an .889 OPS as a 20-year-old in AA and followed it up with an .878 OPS in AAA the next season. On the other hand, he’s the owner of a .635 OPS in the majors, hasn’t had a major-league plate appearance since 2010 and spent the majority of last season with the York Revolution of the independent Atlantic League.
Something to look for when researching potentially successful MiLB free agents is former prospects who could never quite put it together. Marte fits that bill to a T. His Baseball America scouting report after the 2005 season contains the phrases “tape-measure power”, “he has the bat speed and aptitude to hit for a solid average” and “provides quality glovework at the hot corner”. Yet in 924 major league plate appearances he could only manage a .218/.277/.358 line. His peripheral stats are decent. His career walk rate of 7.3% is right about league-average, and his 19.2% career K-rate is slightly better than league-average, especially for a power hitter. His .140 career ISO is roughly league average as well. His problems can be traced in part to his .218 batting average and .259 career BABIP. A BABIP that low can’t simply be blamed on bad luck, however; his uppercut swing led to a FB% over 50% and a line-drive percent of only 16.5%, which drives his BABIP down. If Marte can soften his uppercut and hit more line drives and ground balls, he could see more balls in play fall for hits and bring his batting line up.
Marte’s path towards playing time got cloudy when the D’Backs re-signed Eric Chavez on a guaranteed deal in December. However, Chavez is famously injury-prone, and the D’Backs lost the next line of insurance when they traded Matt Davidson to the White Sox for Addison Reed. If Chavez or starter Martin Prado should come down with injury, Marte could find himself on the bench as a right-handed power bat who can provide average-or-better defense at the infield corners.
One of numberless highly-regarded prospects that never panned out, Marte’s major league dreams may not yet be finished, even at age 30. He won’t be a superstar like was once projected, but with a couple of lucky breaks he could be contributing to a contender come summer 2014.