Who is Andy Marte?

Baseball America – Greenville Braves Stats

Not as a person, of course. I can’t judge that. But as a player; what kind of major leaguer is he likely to grow up to be? I’ve only seen Marte play a few times on TV, but he’s building up quite the statistical track record.

Broadly speaking, Marte has “classical” third-baseman skills of the Mathews/Schmidt type. He’s not going to be a .300 hitter, at least not normally. He’s hitting .275 this year in Greenville, hit .285 last year, and .281 in 2002. (To compare, Mathews’ career BA was .271, his career high .306, and he hit .300 three times in his career. Schmidt hit .316 once but his next-best year was .293.)

What Andy brings to the table, already at his young age, is power. Despite missing a lot of time — about 100 plate appearances worth — with his ankle injury he still leads the team in homers with 18, and he’s second in doubles with 24. His isolated power (a number of statistical analysts are pushing this as a good indicator for minor leaguers these days) is .279. (That’s actually down a little, but still impressive. JD Drew’s isolated power is .276.)

Fielding? While still rather raw, he has promise there as well. Baseball America rates him the best defensive third baseman in the Southern League, with the best infield arm. He’s made 13 errors this year, which certainly isn’t a ridiculously high number.

So what we have in the making is a slugging third baseman with a good glove. Mathews and Schmidt represent the best of this class; other retired members would be Darrell Evans, Graig Nettles, Gary Gaetti, Ron Santo, etc. What will eventually decide how good a major leaguer Marte becomes is his walk rate. He’s got a pretty good one in the minors so far, but it’s not outstanding, and there’s been a tendency for Braves prospects to lose some of their walks when they reach the majors. (Rafael Furcal is probably the most spectacular example, but also Marcus Giles, Andruw Jones among the top players; Adam LaRoche and Nick Green have suffered similar fates this year.)

If Marte comes up and loses 30-40 percent of his walks, I wouldn’t like his future so much anymore. The players who have had really long careers at third base have tended to draw lots of walks. A player I might compare him to — and I think represents his most likely career path — is Matt Williams.

Williams was a good glove man (he won four gold gloves and played 121 career games at short). He was a power hitter, with 378 career homers and 338 doubles, career isolated power .221. In 1994, he had a good chance of breaking Maris’ record when the lights went out, sitting at 43.

But he was also an inconsistent player, and one who had trouble getting started. He was a hot prospect, coming up at age 21 to play 84 games for the Giants… and hit .188. The next two years, he hit .205 and .202. Then he burst upon the scene in 1990, hitting .277 with 33 homers and a Will Clark/Brett Butler-fueled 122 RBI to lead the league.

Williams always hit homers, but because he didn’t walk much way too much of his value was tied up in batting average. If you average .300 and don’t walk much it’s one thing, but if you average .268 (as Williams did and Marte likely will) it’s another. Williams’ last good year was at 33.

So I guess what I’m saying is that if Andy can’t maintain his walk rate to at least give him a .350 OBP when he hits .275, he might turn out like Matt Williams. Of course, Matt Williams made something like $60 million over his career, made five All-Star teams, and once finished second in the MVP voting, so that’s hardly a bad thing. But I’d like Marte to be more. I’m greedy that way.

10 thoughts on “Who is Andy Marte?”

  1. Great job Mac. Couldn’t have said it any better. Here’s to hoping that he keeps those walks and becomes a fixture next year.

  2. So better or worse than David Wright? Personally, I would take Wright.

    Phillies just added Cory Lidle by the way. Not sure if that’s good or bad.

  3. Lidle is bad, in that he’s Cory Lidle. He’s good, in that he’s not Paul Abbott. He’s bad, in that he replaces Millwood for goodness knows how long he and Abbott will stay in the rotation.

    Wright had a monster year in the minors this year, but before this season I don’t think anyone had him ahead of Marte. Marte is a few months younger and has a better overall track record. Wright is already in the majors and seemingly has a better glove. (There’s every chance that despite the BA poll Marte is going to wind up pushed off the position like Cabrera because a veteran is camped there.) My guess is that Marte will hit for more power, Wright for a higher average with more walks. By all rights, if he stays healthy Marte should win a few home run titles.

    Here’s a little Marte/Wright debate.

  4. Pat Burrell out for season; his final “junior” season line – .268, 18 homers, 68 rbis. Hmmmm.

    They just can’t catch a break, eh?

  5. Excellent stuff, Mac, especially the observation on walk rate trends for Braves batters, which I had never noticed. The next Matt Williams sounds pretty good, but I’m hoping for Darrell Evans….gotta keep Pendleton (or whoever) off his back for taking walks….

    The Schmidt comment reminds me of something Bill James once said. While Schmidt was still playing, James said he thought Schmidt was the best 3B ever. Someone challenged him on the basis that Schmidt wasn’t even a .300 hitter, and James replied that if Schmidt hit .300 every year he wouldn’t just be the best 3B ever, but the best player ever. Debatable, sure, but just another reminder how much context matters when you look at the numbers. A .330/36/120 year might have won the Triple Crown back in the ’70s.

  6. Great analysis Mac. I’ve been trying to follow Marte (is it pronounced Mar tay’?) all year. Wow what a power hitter. His average is good but I’ve been watching the walk rate too. I hope that the plate discipline continues. I too would rather have Darrell Evans than Matt Williams especially in the durability department.

    The way Chipper has been playing 3rd this year it would be hard for the Braves to ‘ask’ him to change positions again so if indeed Marte makes the show next year (I think he is destined for Richmond)then he might be an outfielder or a 1b. Funny thing about this year is that even when Chip’s BA was down near the Belliard line he was getting on base and slugging enough to be productive.

  7. That’s a good point — we might have another Nevin/Burroughs situation on our hands soon. At one point the Padres had Nevin take some grounders at second base, if you can imagine. His range would be horrible, but nobody would be trying to break up the double play….

  8. Um, no.
    They sent Burroughs down to play some second base at AAA Portland but I don’t think the Pads ever had Nevin play 2b.

  9. You must not have read the San Diego Union-Tribune the day after it happened. He never appeared in a game at second base, they just had him work out at second one day in spring training. “Um, no” is what the Padres said afterwards….

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