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We continue our series of articles debating the overall ranking of some of the most fantasy-relevant players of the 2018 baseball season with a dynamic player who went through a tough 2017. Starling Marte has been a fixture in the early fantasy rounds for several years now, but an 80-game PED suspension derailed his '17 campaign and has many of us scratching our heads about what's to come.

RotoBaller's expert writers have come up with our consensus rankings for mixed leagues, but that doesn't mean we agreed on everything. In this space, we'll hear from rankers with the biggest differences of opinion on a well-known player and have them defend their position against each other.

We march on with the Steel City Speedster. Jeff Kahntroff will defend his position that Marte is nearly a top-30 pick, while Nick Mariano has him outside of his top-50. We now go live to the (debating) octagon!

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2018 Draft Rankings Debate - Starling Marte

Rank Tier Player Position Kyle Nick Pierre Jeff Harris Bill
41 4 Starling Marte OF 43 54 33 31 45 57

 

Jeff Kahntroff's Ranking: #31 overall

Going into last year, our writers had Starling Marte ranked as follows:

Bill Kyle Nick Me Brad Harris
19 20 24 24 29 31

Now, Nick ranks him 54th. Why? Any satisfactory explanation must explain (1) what has changed to justify a three-round drop in the rankings and/or (2) why we all misranked Marte last year.

Not Much Has Changed

While it seems like Marte has been around forever, he will play all of next season at the age of 29. Even though one may justifiably argue that 29 is the wrong side of the aging curve for a player of Marte’s type, the numbers have not shown any signs of him slowing down. In 2016, he posted a career high in stolen bases (47). In 2017, his 162-game pace was 44 steals. In 2017, his 162-game pace (.275/15/101/65/44) was nearly a mirror image of his 162-game pace from 2013-2016 (.292/16/92/64/44). His performance has been remarkably consistent each year:

  Rank Games AVG HR R RBI SB
2013 69 135 .280 12 83 35 41
2014 64 135 .291 13 73 56 30
2015 30 153 .287 19 84 81 30
2016 71 129 .311 9 71 46 47

Based on the above, our rankers felt Marte was worth a ranking of between 19 and 31 heading into last year, and Nick felt 24th was appropriate. What you had is a player who typically plays about 130 games and ranks within a narrow range of 64th-71st. However, if he plays more games, he becomes a top 30 player.

Even though Marte served a suspension last year, he performed as he always had. In the 64 games after returning, he posted a line of .282/5/41/24/19. That is a 162-game pace of .282/12/104/61/48. Thus, there is no reason to expect a dropoff this year. The only remaining explanation for ranking him lower this season is that our past rankings were inappropriate.

Past Rankings Were Appropriate

Our past rankings of Marte exceeded his actual performance, as shown above. However, they were justified because (1) you know what you are getting for 130 games, and (2) you can supplement his stat line with 30 games of waiver performance to add to his counting stats. When you do so, he is a top-25 asset, and our rankers have felt that way in the past.

Sure, Marte is not for everyone. He is not a good piece on a roster full of health risks or one that needs homers. However, because you know what to expect from Marte, you get certainty in building your roster. That is valuable. If what you need is stolen bases and average without too big a hit in run production or homers, Marte is a great pickup.

For Nick or anyone to justify his ranking, it needs to be shown (1) why last year’s suspension warrants such a drop given that he performed as he always had after returning, or (2) why last year’s rankings were incorrect. I adjusted his ranking downward almost one round due to the increase in age and suspension, but three rounds is too much. Because I believe an argument for a three-round adjustment would be futile, my ranking is appropriate.

 

Nick Mariano's Ranking: #54 overall

As much as I enjoy pointed statements to respond to, I have to start off by disagreeing with the premise. Starling Marte is not some bastion of consistency and quite a lot has changed, but you need to look under the hood to see it. I do not know exactly what to expect from Marte, but since I’m a “fantasy expert” tasked with projecting and ranking him for the upcoming year, I have a very good guess based on the trends we’ve seen.

This Pirate Is Out of Gunpowder

Everyone who rostered Marte in 2015 was rewarded with a beautiful season, as he ripped off a career-high 19 homers and tallied 165 R+RBI (next best is 129) alongside 30 steals and a .287 average. It was truly a glorious campaign. Now, we all knew the 18.6 percent HR/FB rate was a bit too rich given his marks of 12.2 percent and 12.7 percent in 2013 and ‘14, respectively. We know that the power disappeared the next year, as his HR/FB rate cratered to 8.4 percent and rebounded to just 9.9 percent in ‘17.

That’s just one number though, and his power trajectory isn’t as up-and-down as the surface stats show. I can make tables too, Jeff. Let’s glance at his yearly ISO marks, as well as exit velocity data from the years Statcast is available (2015-17):

Year 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
ISO .180 .161 .162 .157 .145 .104
Average Exit Velocity n/a n/a n/a 86.4 MPH 86.3 MPH 82.5 MPH

Out of hitters with 100 batted-ball events in 2017, Marte’s horrid 82.5 MPH AEV ranked 369th out of 387 batters. He finished behind Ben Revere. I get that speedsters such as Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton can generate value without the pop, but we accept them as total duds in the power department. Maybe the dip was due to the PED suspension, though I can’t discount that the improved power of yesteryear wasn’t artificially enhanced.

And yes, the injury concern is there. Just because I can take 130 games of Marte and then add in a waiver guy for a composite statline that satisfies me doesn’t mean that I want to sign for it on the dotted line. We’ve seen how precious those disabled list slots can be, and while many of our leagues have upped the DL slot amount in the face of 2017’s 10-day DL party, we can’t be too careful. I can’t ignore that Marte couldn’t even make through the Dominican Winter League without a hand injury ending that season. Sure, he’s “fine” now, but c’mon.

And it seems that much of the world agrees with me, as Marte’s average ADP across the five major sites is 52. I don’t particularly know what injury from last year is being leveraged here, but I know that the stats show me a batter who managed only 16 extra-base hits in 339 PAs (he had 48 XBH in 529 PAs in ‘16, 51 in 633 PAs in ‘15) thanks to losing authority on his swing. If he can’t bring that back, then I don’t expect his .324 BABIP from last season to rise back toward his .354 career mark either. Why should it? Speed can only get a guy so far, like number 54 on my draftboard. I’ll gamble on a Cameron Maybin late instead for pennies on the dollar, thanks.

 

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