Starling Javier Marte
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 168 lb.
- High School Colegio Carolina
- Debut July 26, 2012
Marte was signed by Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo and Dominican scouting supervisor Josue Herrera in 2006 for a $85,000 bonus. He hit .220/.307/.288 for the 2007 DSL Pirates but stole 16 bases in 18 tries. He improved significantly at age 19, batting .296/.367/.455 for the same team in 2008. He scored 53 runs in 65 games and swiped 20 bases in 28 tries. He tied for 8th in the Dominican Summer League in RBI (44), tied for 4th in home runs (9) and was 4th in runs. He won MVP honors.
In 2009, Marte moved stateside, playing for three different teams: the GCL Pirates, the West Virginia Power and the Lynchburg Hillcats. In a combined 57 games, he hit .309/.371/.430. In 2010, he was slowed by injuries, playing only 60 games for the Bradenton Marauders in addition to a rehabilitation assignment back with the GCL Pirates. He hit .315 at Bradenton, and .345 in the GCL. In 2011, he had an outstanding season for the AA Altoona Curve, hitting .332/.370/.500 in 129 games, with 38 doubles and 24 stolen bases. He scored 91 runs as the regular centerfielder, was named the Eastern League Rookie of the Year and was named to the All-Star team. He was also selected to play in the 2011 Futures Game. After the season, Baseball America ranked him at # 73 on its top 100 prospects list.
Now considered the best position player in the Pirates' minor league system, Marte began 2012 with the AAA Indianapolis Indians. He hit .286 in 99 games, with 21 doubles, 13 triples and 12 homers, and was named a mid-season All-Star in the International League. On July 26th, he was called up to make his major league debut with the Bucs. Leading off against Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park, he hit the first pitch of the game for a home run, sending the Pirates on their way to a 5-3 win. He collected another hit that day to finish 2 for 4. He played 47 games for the Pirates that first season, 43 in left field and 4 in center, hitting .257/.300/.437. He hit only 3 doubles, but 6 triples and 5 homers,scored 18 runs and drove in 17, and was 12 for 17 in stolen base attempts. In spite of his low OBP, the season was good for an OPS+ of 104 - a promising start to his major league career.
Marte played very well in the Dominican League in the 2012-13 off-season. He led the Leones del Escogido to an appearance in the 2013 Caribbean Series by going 11 for 21 and earning MVP honors in the Dominican finals as Escogido swept the Aguilas Cibaenas in five games. Marte had one of the biggest hits of the season for the Pirates in 2013: on September 23rd, facing Kevin Gregg of the Chicago Cubs with two outs and a 1-1 tie at Wrigley Field, he hit a solo homer that gave the Bucs a 2-1 win which clinched the team's first postseason appearance since 1992. Marte had been one of the Pirates' most reliable players all season as the starting left fielder. He was leading the National League with 10 triples and the homer was his 12th of the season. He finished the year at .280/.343/.441 in 135 games, scoring 83 runs. His 10 triples left him tied for second place in the NL, one behind Denard Span and tied with Jose Segura and Carlos Gomez. He stole 41 bases, but was caught stealing a league-leading 15 times. With the Pirates making the postseason for the first time since 1992, he went 2 for 5 with a double and a run scored in the Wild Card Game win over the Cincinnati Reds, but he went only 1 for 19 as the Pirates' bats were stifled by the St. Louis Cardinals' pitching in the NLDS.
On March 26, 2014, Marte signed a six-year contract extension with the Pirates, for a total of $31 million, indicating that he was one of the key pieces in the Pirates' future, alongside Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez. His 2014 season was basically a repetition of the previous one, as he again played 135 games, hit .291, collected 29 doubles and 13 homers, and scored 73 runs and drove in 56. The Pirates once again hosted the Wild Card Game, but this time lost to the San Francisco Giants. The Pirates then followed that by putting up the second-best record in the major leagues in 2015, but once again exited early when they lost the Wild Card Game to the Chicago Cubs. Starling was once again one of the top contributors on the team; in 153 games, he hit .287 with 30 doubles and 19 homers, scored 84 and drove in 81 in addition to playing an excellent left field. Teaming up with McCutchen in CF and Gregory Polanco in right, he contributed to giving the Pirates one of the most productive outfields ever.
In 2016, his continued excellent production made him an All-Star for the first time. He was not on the initial list of players named to the team, instead finding his name on the ballot for the Final Man Vote, but he was later named as a replacement for an injured Yoennis Cespedes and got to play in the game at Petco Park in San Diego, CA. A few days later, he was the hero in an 18-inning win over the Washington Nationals, when he homered off Oliver Perez to give Pittsburgh a 2-1 victory. He hit .311 in 129 games, with 71 runs scored, 9 homers and 46 RBIs. He also repeated as a Gold Glove winner in left. After the season, the Pirates decided to re-align their outfield to compensate for McCutchen's decline as a defensive centerfielder, moving him to right, with Polanco sliding from right to left and Marte, the best defender of the three, taking over centerfield in 2017. However, only a little over two weeks into the season, Marte was handed an 80-game suspension by Major League Baseball for testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing drug, dealing a huge blow to the team's prospects for the season. He returned to the team on July 18th, having served his suspension, although his absence had been very costly as the Pirates had been a disappointing 39-41 in his absence and were three games below .500 overall, six games out of first place in a division race that could have been theirs for the taking. In 77 games, he hit .275 with 7 homers and 31 RBIs, for an OPS+ of 89 - the lowest of his career.
On July 14, 2018, Marte and Gregory Polanco became just the third pair of teammates to hit back-to-back homers in both games of a doubleheader and the first in 50 years since Reggie Jackson and Sal Bando did it on July 7, 1968. The only other previous occurrence was Frank Thomas and Dick Groat on July 7, 1957. He bounced back that season, as he played 145 games and hit .277 with 20 homers and 72 RBIs. He led the National League in caught stealing with 14 but also scored 81 runs, stole 33 bases and had an OPS+ of 114. He had a similar season at age 30 in 2019, hitting .295 with 97 runs, 23 homers and 82 RBIs, putting up an OPS+ of 120 as one of the best players on a team that was never in contention.
On January 27, 2020, he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in return for two solid prospects, P Brennan Malone and IF Liover Peguero and some international bonus pool money. His acquisition meant that his namesake, Ketel Marte, could return to his natural position in the infield as the D-Backs, contrary to the Bucs, were looking to make a run for the postseason. However, tragedy struck while baseball was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic that spring, as his wife Noelia Brazoban died of a sudden heart attack on May 18th. She was in hospital awaiting surgery for a broken ankle. Then, the roof caved in on the D-Backs, as they lost 9 of their last 10 games before the trading deadline of August 31st, turning them into sellers. Marte was hitting .311 in 33 games with an OPS+ of 123, so he was clearly an attractive target for any team looking for an improvement in the outfield. The surprise was the destination he headed to: the Miami Marlins, who were hanging on in the postseason race in spite of having been devastated by a COVID-19 outbreak at the end of July, and playing in what on paper appeared to be a very string division. In fact, all of their rivals in the NL East had experienced setbacks of some sort, opening a door for the Marlins to sneak in. In return, the Fish sent Ps Caleb Smith and Humberto Mejia, as well as a player to be named later, to the desert. He had a great debut for the Marlins on September 1st, as he broke a 2-2 tie with a homer off Shun Yamaguchi in the bottom of the 8th to give Miami a 3-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. He ended up hitting .245 in 28 games for Miami, with 4 homers and 13 RBIs. In all he played 61 games during the 60-game season, which made him the major league leader. The Marlins did make the postseason and he went 2 for 4 with a double in the first game of the Wild Card Series against the Chicago Cubs, but he also suffered an injury which kept him out of the remainder of the playoffs.
Starling was back with Miami at the start of the 2021 season and hit .306 in 63 games over the first four months. However, the Marlins were unable to catch lightning in a bottle once again and were sellers at the trading deadline, with Marte a prize attraction. For the second straight season, he was involved in a trade, being sent to the Oakland Athletics in return for P Jesus Luzardo on July 28th. He ended up leading the major leagues with 47 stolen bases, but because they were almost evenly split between his two teams (22 for Miami and 25 for Oakland), he did not lead either league, finishing in the top 10 in both circuits, something heretofore unprecedented.
- 2008 MVP Dominican Summer League DSL Pirates
- 2-time NL All-Star (2016 & 2022)
- 2-time NL Gold Glove Winner (2015 & 2016/LF)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 2 (2018 & 2019)
- 2008 Pirates Media Guide
- 12/2/08 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; story on Pirates Latino prospects by Dejan Kovacevic
- Adam Berry: "Marte ready to return to center in 2018: Pirates outfielder missed 81 games due to suspension last season", mlb.com, February 15, 2018. 
- Sarah Langs: "Best average in Majors ... but no batting title?", mlb.com, September 16, 2021. 
- Jesse Sanchez: "Baseball offers Marte respite from tragedy", mlb.com, July 21, 2020.