In search of an outfielder with speed, defense, and contact, the New York Mets decided to go for the bid to sign Starling Marte for four years and a total of $78MM in the 2021-2022 free agency period. From day one, Marte was very willing to collaborate with the team, agreeing to move from center field to right field.
Marte immediately put up good numbers hitting .292/.347/.468/.815 with 16 HR, 76 R, 63 RBI, and 18 SB. He also showed good defense in the RF finishing in the top 15 in Arm Strength at the position. This combination of hitting and defense resulted in a 3.0 fWAR, #8 among RFs.
What should the Mets expect from Starling Marte in 2023?
In terms of projections, each year Fangraphs calculates their so-called Zips Projections using multi-year statistics for players to estimate future stats. Using this information as a baseline, Zips projects a similar number of plate appearances for Marte as he did in 2021 with 495, where he would put up a .266/.327/.415 offensive line with a 106 OPS+. In terms of production, he would produce 13 HR, 72 R, 61 RBI, and 21 SB, according to their estimations.
Close up, projections look good. They expect approximately 120 games for Marte, highlighting some games lost due to injury and rest. But looking a little more at the data, what can we really expect?
Looking at the hitter profile of Marte, we should expect a bit more power from him. In 2022 he increased his launch angle, generating an increase in his fly balls that, combined with a Hard-Hit contact of more than 40% against fastball and change-up (which he receives almost 40% of the time), allowed him to increase the number of home runs per at-bats from 2.56 in 2021 to 3.43 in 2022.
However, despite this expected improvement in HR, this increase in power translates into a possible increase in strikeouts which had already increased in 2022 and would generate a lower batting average as effectively projected by the Zips. Another aspect that has been coming up for Marte is his vulnerability with the curveball to which he hits just .192 with a terrible SLG of .250.
In terms of speed, it dropped considerably in 2022, being possibly affected by a combination of his discomfort in the second half of the year due to a core muscle injury and his age. In this sense, we can continue to expect a regression in base stealing, especially since Marte comes from an operation carried out last November. Lastly, we can expect a defense quite similar to that in 2022. Starling's arm strength seems to continue to be elite in the position.
Analyzing the available data, we can expect a good 2023 for Marte playing around 120-125 games, posting between 15-18 HR, with some regression in base stealing expecting a little less than 20 and a drop in his batting average compared to 2021 but close to .270. Undoubtedly, Starling will continue to be a multi-contribution player on the team, a hitter with good contact, speed, and durability in the game (considering his age), thanks to playing in RF, a less physically demanding position than CF.