The Impact of the Starling Marte Suspension
Starling Marte’s suspension was the major talking point of the baseball world last week and caused hysteria for both Marte and Austin Meadows owners’, though for opposite reasons. The Pirates have since faced both a right-handed and left-handed pitcher, so we can at least have an idea of how the Pirates lineup may look without Marte.
The clear starting point in this discussion is with Marte himself. Of star players recently suspended, none have a skill set that is comparable to Marte’s. Ryan Braun, Jhonny Peralta, and Nelson Cruz have all come back from suspensions in recent seasons to remain nearly as valuable, if not more so than prior to their suspensions. There was some skepticism as to how Dee Gordon would fare this season, but signs have been positive to this point.
Given these examples, although it isn’t a lot to work off of, there isn’t much to suggest that there is a penalty in performance once a suspended batter returns to the field. The suspension certainly hurts, but don’t panic and sell low on Marte in dynasty leagues, especially if you are competing now. He’s more than worth the wait.
Adam Frazier, Jose Osuna, and Alen Hanson
Adam Frazier is the trendy name to pick up playing time in Marte’s absence, and he should start in right field against right-handed pitchers. He will almost certainly sit against lefties, which immediately dampens some of his fantasy potential by virtue of playing time. Adding some potential intrigue is the fact that he makes a lot of contact and should bat atop the Pirates lineup on a frequent basis. But despite the increase in playing time at a premier place in the batting order, Frazier doesn’t have close to the impact potential of Marte (obviously). Still, even with little power, Frazier has excellent contact abilities and should get on base at a solid clip; he posted a .356 OBP in part-time play last season. If Frazier continues hitting in the top-half of the lineup, he could help out in your average/OBP categories while also providing a boost with runs scored. (Ed. note: Frazier was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Monday with a left hamstring strain)
Jose Osuna was in the starting lineup on Friday night when the Pirates took on lefty C.C. Sabathia, so it appears he will get the first shot in right field anytime the Pirates face a southpaw. Osuna is making his MLB debut this season and was always regarded as a decent but not special prospect. Accordingly, he was rarely found among the top-20 prospects in the organization. Scouting reports tab him as having plenty of raw power. That hasn’t necessarily translated to games yet, however, given that he hit 12 and 13 home runs respectively in the minors in 2014 and 2015. He will start on the small side of a platoon, so he remains minimal as an asset. If he starts to hit and gain playing time, he is a name to know and watch.
Alen Hanson was once a touted prospect, but there isn’t much enthusiasm surrounding him in the organization anymore. That said, he made the big league club (because he was out of options), and the Marte suspension could buy him more playing time, so there’s intrigue here. More dominoes will need to fall for Hansen to see the field, such as the Pirates moving on from Josh Harrison or an injury to any Pirates infielder, but if any of those happen, he could have a fantasy-friendly profile with his speed (30+ stolen bases in 2015 and 2016).
Marte’s suspension doesn’t initially appear to have much to do with Bell, but it forces the Pirates to play Adam Frazier in the outfield rather than as a utility player. That thins the infield enough to ensure that David Freese will have to see most of his at-bats at third base, leaving first base open for Bell. It will give fantasy owners who are hoping to get a read on Bell’s future value a chance to see him in a large, consistent sample for the first time in his major league career.
The fiery takes after the news of Marte’s suspension mostly concerned Austin Meadows, and how it was his time to get the call to the bigs. The excitement is a bit premature, though, as the Pirates will prioritize Meadows’ development over the hype. The earliest reasonable time to expect Meadows to come up is sometime in early June. For reference, Gregory Polanco, a player of similar pedigree and fanfare, was called up on June 10 when he made his major league debut. Meadows’ owners may get to him in the majors this season, just don’t count on it for at least another month.