Monday, September 13, 2004
Braves prospect Andy Marte
By John Sickels
Special to ESPN.com
Position: 3B Height: 6-1 Weight: 180 Born: 10/21/83 Bats: Right Throws: Right
The Braves signed Andy Marte as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2000. He made his pro debut in 2001, hitting just .200 with very little power for Danville in the Appalachian League. The Braves retained faith in him, however, and were rewarded with a fine 2002 season for Macon in the South Atlantic League. The next year brought improved strike-zone judgment and better defensive play, solidifying Marte's status as a top-tier prospect. Marte made the transition to Double-A in 2004 very successfully. Although his season was shortened by an ankle injury, he continued to improve defensively while showing significant power production and maintaining his plate discipline. He may be the best long-term third base prospect in the game right now.
Marte has excellent bat speed, and can pull the ball for power or hit to the opposite field. He turns well on pitches inside and is difficult to overpower. Marte has worked hard to improve his plate discipline. His strikeout rate is higher than ideal, but he will take walks, and makes good adjustments from at-bat to at-bat. It is hard to fool him with the same pitch in the same game, and he's made major strides against sliders and curveballs. Scouts are certain he will hit for power, and his batting average and on-base percentage should be just fine. He reminds some observers of Dodgers third baseman Adrian Beltre, high praise indeed considering what Beltre has done this year. Defensively, Marte has developed into a very sound gloveman at third base, with above-average range and a strong arm. He's cut down on careless errors and should have no problems manning the hot corner for the long-term. His biggest weakness is lack of speed. He's reasonably instinctive on the bases, but doesn't have more than average running speed. He will never be a stolen-base threat, but is unlikely to be a baseclogger, either. Scouts are impressed with his work ethic and willingness to accept instruction and suggestion.
The most impressive part of Marte's statistical profile is his age-relative-to-league. He did very well in Double-A this year at the age of 20, a sign of a potential future star. His record is marked by increasing walk rates, a good marker, and he spiked additional home run power this year, always a positive indicator when a player advances a level.
An ankle sprain cost Marte several weeks of play this summer as he missed the second half of June and the first half of July with the injury. He returned healthy, however, and is not expected to have any long-term effects from the problem. He works hard to stay in good physical condition, another plus.
What to expect
Andy Marte has no serious weaknesses and a lot of strengths. If he develops along a normal growth curve, he could end up as an All-Star eventually. There are no guarantees, of course; it took Beltre several years to live up to his potential. There's always the chance that injuries or other unforeseen circumstances could harry Marte on his way to the Show. But aside from the unpredictable fortunes of the game, Marte has everything you could ask for in a prospect: tool-based talent, skill-based performance, and a strong work ethic.
John Sickels is the author of The Baseball Prospect Book 2004, which can be ordered through his Web site, Johnsickels.com. His other book, "Bob Feller: Ace of the Greatest Generation," is also out, and can be ordered through online book outlets or your local bookstore. He lives in Lawrence, Kan., with his wife, Jeri; son, Nicholas; and feline friends Toonces and Spot.