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Is it time for the Angels to have a Marte Par-tay?

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Should Jefry Marte be a regular starter in 2017

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at New York Yankees Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

How did he get here?

The New York Mets signed Jefry Marte in 2007 out of the Dominican Republic at age 16 for just $550,000.

In 2012, Marte was traded to the A’s for Collin Cowgill in what was likley a move for the A’s to free up a spot on the 40-man roster.

Marte became a free agent after the 2014 season and signed with the Detroit Tigers along with a spring training invite. Marte’s major league debut was with the Tigers in 2015.

Queue Billy Eppler who traded 2B Kody Eaves for Marte last January.

What type of prospect has he been?

After the 2008 season, Marte was ranked the #6 prospect in the Mets organization which was his highest ranking. After the 2015 season (right before Eppler nabbed him), he was ranked #17 in the Tigers system.

Other awards include:
“Best infield arm” in the Mets organization for the 2009 season
#3 prospect in the Gulf Coast League for 2008
Futures Game selection, 2011
Mid Season All-Star (2012 & 2015)
MILB.COM Organization All-Star (2015)
INT League Player of the Month (June 2015)

Marte has always been seen by scouts and a player with power potential but year after year they kept waiting for it to develop. A 2015 scouting report listed him as having a 4 power with 5 potential which would put him at 18 HR give or take at the high end. That same report put him at a 4 with 4+ potential in hit which lands him in the .240 to .250 range. He’s always been known for a strong arm (see awards above), but a bit weaker on the defensive side. Still a 5 projection for defense is pretty good. His baserunning speed has always been a weak point - a base stealer he is not.

Marte hasn’t been seen as a star third baseman most of his career and past scouting reports largely have considered him a part time / utility / organizational depth player.

What can the Angels expect in 2017?

Marte had an impressive 2016 campaign and put up a 1.5 WAR despite playing only 88 games and only starting about 70 of them. If you stretch out his stats to a full season, he could have ended up 4th on the team in WAR behind Trout, Calhoun, and Simmons.

Marte also hit one less homerun than C.J. Cron ( in about 160 less plate appearances), and 3 less homeruns than Kole Calhoun in 400 less plate appearances. Double Marte’s plate appearances and homeruns and you get 568 and 30. Could he keep up that pace for an entire season? Maybe. But I think with 500-600 at bats you might at least see him in the 25 range and he could be right up there with Trout and Pujols in a full season home run race (probably in third place).

His fielding has also improved and while his fielding percentage was just behind Kaleb Cowart, his UZR/150 rating was the highest among anyone who played third base in 2016. He also had a UZR rating of 2.2 with just 160 innings played at the hot corner.

Marte may be no Josh Donaldson or Manny Machado at third, but is certainly better than Yunel Escobar and he has improved nearly every year defensively. His strong arm and improved defense make him a viable every day player at third base.

I don’t think we can expect much more than a .240-.260 average range, but Marte has great discipline and can draw walks. An OBP in the .310-.330 range is not unrealistic even though it was just .284 in 2015 and .310 in 2016 at the major league level. You certainly aren’t going to get the on base totals of Yunel Escobar, but you are going to get something about 30-40 points lower with a lot more pop and much better defense.

Marte may have finally grown into his body which could be a reason for the power upsurge, but he has also been hitting more line drives and fly balls. Prior to 2014 he was more of a ground ball hitter and perhaps a change in his swing has caused him to hit the ball in the air more.

There’s not really any question on if Marte can weather a full season either, as he has played plenty of games in the past. Since 2011 he has been putting in the work:

Year Age Total Games
2011 20 153
2012 21 137
2013 22 149
2014 23 116
2015 24 139
2016 25 132

What next?

Marte is an interesting case. He seemed to have played well enough in 2016 to earn a full time spot in 2017, but where does he land? Unless Escobar is moved to another team, he seems destined to have limited playing time again.

But Marte has been showing improvement in recent years. He played AA in 2014 and has a slash line of .259/.333/.375 but in 2015 for Detroit’s AAA team, Marte had a slash line of .275/.341/.487 with an .828 OPS.

Showing that perhaps 2016 was no fluke, Marte is leading his Dominican team with a .346/.469/.423 slash line this winter. He has walked 6 times in 32 plate appearances and only struck out 4 times in 8 games.

So what do the Angels do with Marte? Given that he started his pro career at age 17, next year will be his 10th professional year and he seems primed to show off all that he has learned, and the player he has developed into. But will he get that chance?