Reining in Expectations for Marte

I think the majority here would support the idea that Andy Marte should be receiving more plate appearances than he has thus far and some would argue should be given the third base job outright (with Blake moving around in a super utility role since all of the planets have aligned and Bizarro Blake is knocking in RISP likes its going out of style). Some have dissented and stated that Marte doesn't deserve the shot because of not showing anything that would be considered "forcing his way into the lineup" this year or in his time in the Indians organization in general. I don't want to get into this argument again as I think it was covered well in this article Jay wrote back on May 14th of this year. What I want to talk about is what we should expect from Marte assuming he will be given more plate appearances going forward (although this isn't necessarily going to happen with Wedge in charge and the offense struggling as it has).

As with any rookie or young player in general, the lack of an extensive history at the major league level lends itself to greater variability in projecting what kind of production you are likely to receive in those early years at the major league level. It is quite possible that Marte will be much worse offensively at third base than Casey Blake this year. But, I'm coming to believe that the Indians need to trust their talent evaluation. If he was good enough to trade for, than he should still be good enough as he ages into his prototypical prime years of production (Marte is only 24 right now). This belief is directed toward the high end talents that the team acquires, such as the players received in the Colon trade, Marte, and even a guy like Barfield to a degree. Many things can stop a prospect from becoming a regular in the bigs, but most of them can be observed (i.e. a major injury, development of bad hitting habits, exacerbation of an already bad habit as a player moves through levels, off the field problems, etc.) But simply losing the talent the player has already displayed is not likely one of them. The Indians need to trust their judgment unless there is an identifiable problem (and I don't want here all you armchair scouts and your claims that Marte has developed a "hole" in his swing in the past year or two, thanks for your subjective assessment, but I'll pass).

So this brings me to what was expected of Marte this year by some of the better projections systems used in projecting future performance. I'm starting off with PECOTA's projections:

A weighted mean projection of 460 plate appearances:

.737 OPS and an EqA of .257

Not exactly "eye poppin", and he's going to have to start getting some more playing time to hit that plate appearance mark, but you get the idea. He'd be somewhere around avg. to below avg. for AL 3B. Now check out the next two lines:

75th percentile = .782 OPS and a .276 EqA

25th percentile = .647 OPS and a .231 EqA

That bottom number is pretty pathetic, while that top number is just as likely yet gives us an above avg. third baseman in the AL.

You know who currently has an actual OPS similar to Marte's mean projected OPS? Yeah that's right Casey Blake at .722 prior to today's game. What I'm getting at here is its likely that if Marte is given the at-bats that most of us would like (including me) that for this season his production is likely to be somewhere near what we are going to get out of Casey Blake. Much like Gutierez, there is a high risk/high reward in playing Marte this season, and increased playing time could allow Marte to hit near his 75th percentile projection or more likely his mean projection, Neither of which is near the "future all-star" level that was mentioned when we traded for Marte, but not terrible either, and certainly not going to be the reason this team's offense tanks this year (Mr. Hafner and Mr. Martinez, that's your cross to bear).

To bolster my point that although most of us agree Marte should be playing more, we'll need to temper our expectations for his performance, are the OPS projections for the other major projection systems:

Marcels predicts 248 plate appearences and a .710 OPS

Bill James predicted 154 at-bats* and a .755 OPS

CHONE predicted 508 PAs and a .725 OPS

Miner predicted 469 PAs and a .725 OPS

ZiPS predicted 497 at-bats* and a .702 OPS

*plate-appearances not projected

Marte needs to be playing, but he also needs to be hitting in the bottom third of the lineup and not be counted on as a major offensive performer. (I'll argue my socks off that he's a better defensive third baseman than Casey Blake though and this alone should be the reason Marte needs to play more).

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