Welcome to episode three of the Pirates Playoff Projections series!
If you read my intro to the Bucs Dugout site back in July, you’ll remember that I’m a big fantasy baseball fan, which makes me a bit of a numbers/projections guy at times. I still use the eye test plenty to help me find players I like, and there’s nothing quite like enjoying a Pirates baseball game with the emotional interest of a lifelong fan, but I love the statisical, fantasy side of the game as well.
With that in mind, I thought it might be a worthwhile project to start projecting what key Pirates players will need to do in 2020 if the Bucs are going to shock the league and end up in the playoffs come October. I know, I know, it’s a stretch based on the season we all just witnessed. But with a new manager and staff coming soon, I figured it’s a good time for some optimism.
Each week I’ll pick a player and go through what their 2020 season might look like under the assumption that they’re able to help lead the black and gold to their first playoff appearance since 2015. Let’s go Bucs!
Despite early widespread criticism of his offensive and defensive play in 2019 (namely his lack of “hustle”), Starling Marte put together one of his best overall seasons to date, flirting with a .300 avg (.295), hitting a career-high 23 homers, and stealing a standard 25 bases in a shortened season (132 games). He did that all while blanketing the massive center field lawn at PNC Park whenever he was in the lineup, resulting in a solid 3.0 WAR for the year.
The Pirates picked up Marte’s $11.5 million team option on Thursday, which was surely one of the easiest contract decisions of the offseason, considering the value that number provides compared to other middle-of-the-order outfielders who provide pop and speed at the level he does. Assuming there isn’t a trade looming to signal a complete rebuild for the newly-managed Pirates, the $12.5 million option for 2021 is a pretty safe bet as well.
Marte will have to give the Bucs more of the same production in 2020 if the team hopes to make a push for the playoffs. He took over the third spot in the order at the end of May when Bryan Reynolds was promoted to the second spot, and his improvement in the power department really started to show in the second half of the year. An increase in hard hit percentage (up to 37.7%) and a decrease in infield fly ball percentage (down to 5.6%) bodes pretty well for his HR/FB rate of 18.5% to remain similar this coming season. He was able to reach that rate in 2015 as well,
The 31-year-old showed impressive efficiency on the base paths as well, getting caught stealing just six times in 31 attempts. The .295 batting average is certainly in line with expectations too, as a .319 BABIP for the year is sustainable for a player of his style/ability. We probably can’t expect too much improvement in any one category, but dissecting the numbers gives a pretty strong indication that what Marte did in 2019 was legitimate and repeatable assuming health is not a major issue.
Let’s throw some numbers out there! Remember, these ARE optimistic, as we’re looking at these players under the lense of a Pirates playoff run in 2020.
Starling Marte 2020:
143 games played
610 plate appearances
.298 BA with a .345 OBP
25 home runs, 104 runs, 85 RBI, and 27 stolen bases
What do YOU think? Give me some over, under, or just rights down in the comments below. I’m also always happy to hear your thoughts on more in-depth statistics like HR/FB, Hard Hit Percentage, BABIP, and more. Hope you’re all having a good offseason so far, and I’ll be back next week to tackle another Bucco stat line for 2020. Until then, Let’s go Bucs!