Position: 3B Height: 6-1 Weight: 180 Born: 10/21/83 Bats: Right Throws: Right
I've received several questions lately about Braves prospect Andy Marte, so I thought a full report was in order. Marte was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2000. His pro debut was weak: a .200 average with just one homer in 37 games for Danville in the 2001 Appalachian League. 2002 was completely different. He broke out with a strong season for Macon in the Sally circuit, ripping 21 homers and driving in 105 runs. This past season was another successful campaign, and he's now regarded as one of the top hitting prospects in minor-league ball.
Scouts say that Marte has very quick wrists, helping him generate plus bat speed even though he's not the biggest physical specimen in the universe. He has power to all fields, can pull the ball for home runs, or hit to the opposite field gap when needed. He still needs to improve his plate discipline, but he made huge strides in that regard last year, increasing his walk rate substantially. He will still lunge outside the strike zone occasionally, but that should ease with time. On defense, Marte has enough range to play shortstop in some farm systems, though the Braves have kept him at third base since he doesn't have much pure speed. His arm is strong and accurate, and he has soft hands. With additional experience to iron out his footwork, he'll be a fine defensive player. He still makes errors of inexperience and poor concentration, but that is normal for a player his age. Marte has a strong work ethic, and is emotionally stable.
On the surface, Marte's 2003 numbers look much like his '02 numbers. But Myrtle Beach is a horrible place to hit, making his numbers better than they look. He hit as well at home as he did on the road, unusual for players in that park. He hit .315 vs. left-handers, but held his own against righties as well, hitting .273 against them with nine homers and 29 doubles. After a mediocre April, he hit four homers in each of May, June, July, and August, hitting over .300 in two of those four months. The increase in his walk rate over 2002 was notable, and his strikeouts are not out of bounds given his youth and power.
Marte has had no serious health problems.
What to expect
With no Double-A experience under his belt, Marte is likely at least a year away from the major leagues. But the experience of Miguel Cabrera in 2003 shows how quickly players can advance if the opportunity is there. The Braves have concentrated on developing pitching in their farm system, and have few offensive prospects of note other than Marte. Theoretically, a strong 2004 season in Double-A would put him in contention for a job some time in '05. That timetable could slow down, or accelerate, depending on how he progresses, as well as the needs of the team. In the long run, Marte should be a tremendous player, assuming he has a normal growth curve and maintains decent command of the zone.
John Sickels is the author of the 2004 Baseball Prospect Book, which can be ordered from his Web site, JohnSickels.com. He lives in Lawrence, Kan., with his wife, son, and two cats. You can send John questions or comments at JASickels@aol.com.