Pirates Waiting On Patience

Marte developing discipline at the plate





PITTSBURGH—Starling Marte, the Pirates' top outfield prospect, was off to a great start in his first season with Double-A Altoona, batting .354/.393/.494 with seven steals in eight tries—all among the Eastern League leaders.

In one late-April game, he had six RBIs, the game-tying hit in the ninth inning and the game-winning, bases-clearing triple in the 15th. "I just go up there, look for a fastball," Marte said afterward, "I let loose, and I swing at it."

Sounds great, right?

Well, the Pirates would advise patience, not only to those who might be excited by Marte's start, but also to Marte himself. His lone shortcoming was that he had three walks through 72 plate appearances, and being more selective is management's primary emphasis.

Farm director Kyle Stark described Marte's improvement in plate discipline as "minimal at this point," but added, "some of that is due to the natural inclination to survive when a player first advances to another level."

Stark attributed most of Marte's early surge to sheer ability. "The numbers are coming from an athletic, physically gifted player who finds ways to get hits. His legs help him some, and he has the ability to find the barrel. We'd like for him to continue to make consistent, hard contact, and that's a factor of what pitches he swings at. He's making progress."

The Pirates signed Marte out of the Dominican Republic in January 2007 for $85,000. The 22-year-old is the Pirates' only prospect with five-tool potential, with plus speed, solid defense in center field and a strong arm. He missed two months last season due to broken hamate bone in his left hand but finished strong at high Class A Bradenton, batting .314/.416/.454 in 207 at-bats.

TREASURE TROVE

• Righthander Bryan Morris went on Altoona's disabled list in late April with a strained oblique.

• First baseman Aaron Baker was off to a .329/.395/.507 start for Bradenton, and his 22 RBIs ranked among the top 10 in the minor leagues.