Right off the bat (okay, there’s another one) forgive the puns. I’m a sucker for them, so it’s just too easy. A post now to appreciate two young players named Marte coming into their own here in 2016. From east to west, a closer look at the breakout seasons of the Pirates’ Starling and the Mariners’ Ketel:
Starling Marte, Pirates
This has been the emergence the Pirates long anticipated with Marte. Through 32 games, Marte leads the league in doubles (13) and stolen bases (nine) while slashing .341/.388/.512. Marte also has three homers and 14 RBIs, and showed a newfound knack for the clutch with a game-tying (which should have been a game-winning) RBI double against Trevor Rosenthal of the Cardinals on Saturday. Marte is hitting .372 with runners in scoring position. Last year he hit .294, but in 2014 he hit just .243 on those situations. With Andrew McCutchen yet to find his midseason form, Marte has been one of if not the primary driving force for the Buccos’ much improved offense. FanGraphs tells that Marte’s hard contact percentage is on a career-high pace at 34.3%. He is swinging at better pitches and chasing fewer bad ones, the sign of a maturing hitter. Remember, Marte is only 23 years old despite this being his fourth full season in the big leagues.
Ketel is even younger than Starling at just 22 years of age, but the switch-hitting shortstop is heating up in May. Last night Marte tallied a career-high four hits and hit a tie-breaking, three-run homer in Seattle’s 5-2 win over Tampa Bay. Marte is batting .333 in May, helping set the table for the M’s big bats. Marte was solid in 57 games last year, batting .283 with 14 doubles and 17 RBIs. He looks to be gaining confidence in his first full season in the Majors, and is a big part of the reason the Mariners are in first place in the American League West.