Andy Marte, Former Top Prospect, Dies in Car Accident

Andy Marte, who played parts of seven seasons in the majors and was a former top prospect of the Braves and Red Sox, died in a car accident early Sunday in the Dominican Republic, his agency confirmed. He was 33.

According to Dominican news website, Marte died in an accident while driving his white Mercedes on Pimentel-San Francisco de Macoris Road near Casa de Alto in the Dominican Republic. According to the website, Marte’s car was traveling at “high speed.”

Marte was playing this winter in his native Dominican Republic for Las Águilas Cibaeñas, which is currently in the Dominican League playoffs. He did not play in Saturday’s game and he had just 18 at-bats this winter, hitting .278/.350/.278. He played for KT Wiz in the Korean Baseball Organization the past two regular seasons, hitting a total of 42 homers.

Marte’s agency, J.M.G. Baseball, posted a note on Twitter: “Words can’t express the emotions from the loss of our client Andy Marte. Gone too soon. A great person on and off the field.”

On Twitter, fellow Dominican and former minor leaguer Rodney Linares, manager of the Astros’ Double-A affiliate in Corpus Christi, posted this note: “My condolences to the Marte family for the sudden death of Andy, one of the nicest and most decent players I have ever come across. This hurts.”

Seen as a five-tool talent, Marte signed out of the Dominican Republic for $600,000 in September 2000, shortly after the end of the Braves’ six-month ban on signing Dominicans, the result of signing Wilson Betemit before his 16th birthday.

Marte developed into one of the game’s top prospects. He ranked among BA’s Top 100 Prospects four times—as high as No. 9 overall and three times in the top 15 from 2004-2006—and was the top prospect of both the Braves and Red Sox. Marte had a smooth and easy swing and scouts projected he’d have plus power and hit for average.

He also was patient and a good defender, winning Best Defensive Third Baseman honors in BA’s Best Tools surveys in every full-season league as a Braves farmhand. He ranked as Atlanta’s top prospect after the 2003 and 2005 seasons and ranked second behind Jeff Francouer in 2004.

With future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones entrenched at the hot corner ahead of him, Marte got his first big league opportunity in June 2005 after Jones strained a ligament in his left foot. While Francouer blazed to the big leagues as a 21-year-old, landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated and hit .300 while helping the Braves to their 14th straight division title, Marte couldn’t stick in Atlanta. He hit just .200 with three RBIs in 12 games before returning to the minors.

Marte was traded twice within two months after the 2005 season. First, the Braves traded him to Boston for Edgar Renteria in December 2005. “We had a significant gap to fill, and we believe we’ve done that,” Braves GM John Schuerholz said at the time. “As painful as it is to trade a player with Marte’s caliber, it needed to be done.”

After that deal, Red Sox senior adviser Bill Lajoie said Boston planned to keep Marte despite rumors to the contrary. “We want to keep that player . . . He’s ready to have a good year,” Lajoie told reporters. “He would be one of the five players you would want to start a ballclub with.”

Marte was a member of the Red Sox long enough to rank as Boston’s top prospect that winter before he was traded to Cleveland on Jan. 27, 2006, along with righthander Guillermo Mota and catcher Kelly Shoppach, for Coco Crisp, catcher Josh Bard and righthander David Riske.

Marte hit .226/.287/.421 in 50 games for the Indians in 2006 and ultimately never emerged as the star the Braves, Red Sox or Indians thought he could. A June 2006 Daily Dish piece by Chris Kline detailed the issues Marte was having offensively:

“We’re starting to get some reports on him that the swing plane has changed over the last year,” Triple-A Buffalo manager Torey Lovullo said in that piece. “What I remember when I managed against him three years ago, he was a pretty special creature. He’s got great makeup, he’s agile as a third baseman, he’s got good arm strength and he hits and he hits for power. There’s a lot of tools there, but he’s had some fundamental breakdowns in his game and we are fine-tuning those, getting him into our system and showing him what we expect from a major league player.”

Marte wound up playing 308 big league games, hitting 21 homers while batting .218/.276/.358 overall. His last big league time came in 2014 with Arizona with 16 plate appearances. He spent his final two seasons playing in the KBO.

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