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Jefry Marte: The Angels' most important prospect

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Yes, there are prospects rated higher than Jefry Marte, but none will have as big of an impact on the Trout window than my almost namesake counterpart.

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Barring any surprising developments, the roster for the 2017 Angels is pretty much set and it is time for the team and fans to see how it produces.

New-ish GM Billy Eppler has done a solid job of filling glaring holes in left field and at second base for 2017 and has an aging third baseman entering his walk year.  All three positions are set to become vacant next season and, of course, teams can never have enough pitching.

So why is Marte so important?  His development determines where Eppler spends the Hamilton/Street/Weaver/Wilson windfall for the duration of the Trout Window.

Let's take a look at the following positions Marte's development will impact:

Third Base:

Yunel Escobar is the Angels third baseman for 2017 and Luis Valbuena is signed through 2018.  Outside of Jefry Marte, the farm system lacks anything resembling a Major League third baseman unless you still have hope in Kaleb Cowart.

The free agent market next year features Mike Moustakis, who is already linked to the Angels, and Manny Machado will headline the free agent class two years from now.  Both free agents will be expensive, especially Machado.  If Marte develops into a solid MLB player, Eppler will be able to bypass a big money contract and allocate resources elsewhere.

Left Field:

Cameron Maybin will patrol left field for the Angels in 2017 with Ben Revere getting some playing time.  Those two will make the 29th and 30th players to man that position since Opening Day 2014.  30.  The free agent markets the next couple of years are pretty much comprised of guys on the wrong side of 30 or even 35 as well as Maybin and Revere.

Just like with third base, if Marte can cover left field at league minimum, Eppler avoids a larger contract to a free agent.  In this case, though, the free agents are not nearly to the quality of Moustakis or Machado.  While I personally think one of Maybin or Revere is likely to get an extension, even $10 million per year to Maybin would be substantially more than playing Marte.

Also, if Marte's stock rises he could be part of a trade for a longer term solution in left.

Second Base:

There's no way Marte is going to play second base.  Danny Espinosa does seem like a reasonable extension candidate, and Valbuena is a passable second baseman while Eppler is high on prospect David Fletcher.

If Marte is perceived as an MLB regular, he could conceivable be part of a package to trade for a longer term solution at second.  If he has claimed a full time spot at third or left, he helps Eppler fit an Espinosa or even a Neil Walker into the budget.  His impact might not be quite as direct, but it is substantial.

Pitching:

While we can hope all of Richards, Skaggs, Heaney and Tropeano come back to be elite level MLB pitchers, it would be folly for Eppler to count on such an unlikely outcome.  There are some big prizes hitting the free agent market in the next couple of years, including Yu Darvish and Alex Cobb.

While Marte won't pitch, the money he possibly saves Eppler can be used for pitching.  I would love to see a young power bat at third and a dominant pitching staff, but that task becomes nearly impossible if the man at third is named "Machado."  It is very possible if that man is Marte.

Overall:

The combination of the Angels having few MLB ready position player prospects, evident needs around the immediate corner, the limited guaranteed control of Mike Trout, make Marte the most important prospect in the system.  Whether or not he develops into a regular MLB player or at least a solid trade chip will have larger implications for the Trout Window than the fortunes of any other prospect.

My personal hope is that Marte lays claim to the starting third base job and is a steady contributor during the Trout Window.  That would fix a long time problem for the Angels and give Eppler flexibility in addressing other needs.  I'm willing to bet Eppler is monitoring his progress closely as well.