Last offseason, the Mets made a series of big splashes to help turn their roster into a surefire playoff contender. While Max Scherzer was their biggest acquisition, following closely behind was Starling Marte. Marte’s name had been discussed in relation to the Mets for years, but they finally signed him to play right field and help bolster the top of their lineup. And it worked, with his talent and skills helping to lead the Mets to over 100 wins. His late season injury caused their lineup to falter when they needed him the most, and despite his return in time of the Wild Card series against the Padres, they ended up being eliminated in the first round.
This year, Marte looks to build on a solid first season with the Mets. His 2022 season featured all the hallmarks of a good Marte season. He hit .292/.347/.468, with 16 home runs (his most since 2019 and the fourth most in his career) and 18 stolen bases. He had a 136 wRC+ and was worth 3.0 fWAR. He was an All-STar for the second time in his career, and his production was such that he ended up placing 19th in the National League MVP voting. He played in 118 games, missing time due to a broken finger for most of the last month of the season. But he was one of the Mets best players of 2022, being a reliable presence in the top of the lineup.
If there was one knock against him, it’s that his defense wasn’t as good as it’s been in years prior. A lot of that has to do with the fact that he was asked to play right field for the first time in his career, and the adjustment period for that led to some bad defense, with Marte being worth -2 OAA in right field over the course of the season. For comparison, since Statcast began tracking OAA in 2016, Marte was worth 14 OAA in center field. Hopefully he will become more comfortable in right field after a full season and can return at least partially to form.
The other concern with Marte is his injuries. In his career he’s only played less than 120 games in a season 3 times (not counting the COVID shortened 2020 season, during which he played 61 games). His first season in 2012, the 2017 season when he was suspended for PED use, and last year. While he’s never dealt with significantly long injury issues, he’s also on the wrong side of 30 (for a baseball player) and he played through a core injury for the second half of the season. He ended up needing surgery on said injury after the season, and while Buck Showalter has said that he expects Marte to be ready for Opening Day, it’s still an area for concern.
The ZiPS projection system projects Marte to hit .266/.317/.415 in 114 games next season, with 13 home runs and 21 stolen bases. It projects Marte to have a 116 wRC+ and to be worth 2.7 fWAR. Essentially a little down from last season, but still very good. BUt the 114 games projection belies the thought that he may be looking at a more injury prone future, which is not uncommon for players in their mid-30s. He’ll still take the field for the majority of the games, but he’s no longer the player who can be counted on for 120-130+ games a season.
Starling Marte had a good first season in New York, cut down a bit by various injuries. He’ll likely be the same kind of player he was in 2022 this season, which is perfect for the top of the Mets’ lineup. While the injury risk can’t be ignored and must be monitored by the team, he provides more than enough value when he’s on the field to make a big impact on the team’s success.