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Outfielder Profile: Starling Marte's ample contributions

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The Pittsburgh outfielder is one of only a handful of players likely to give you power, speed AND average, and that's valuable.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Dee Gordon is great and all. Sixty-four steals will help you every time, even if it comes with two homers and 34 RBI. (Whether he'll do that this year is another story, though irrelevant to my current point.)

And Nelson Cruz or David Ortiz, hitting a boatload of home runs but never otherwise running the bases, they are obviously hugely helpful as well. You draft Gordon and Cruz and they repeat their 2014 performances, and you're well on your way.

The problem with that should be obvious. You have to get both of them. Or you have to punt. Cruz gives you a lot of power, but no speed. Gordon gives you a lot of speed, but no power. If you plan to have a well-rounded offense, competing in all five (or whatever) offensive categories, choosing specialized players limits you.

With a no-power burner on your roster, not only do you also need a slugger later, but you need a slugger with enough power to make up for the lack of power of the speedy guy. The more power the slugger has, the less likely he's stealing bases, so you need another burner to make up the difference, so you need another slugger to pick up the slack, so ...

You get it. It's not a bad way to build a roster, if you can pull it off.

Obviously, there's an easier way. Guys who can do all the things. At the top of the rankings, sure, Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen run the bases, hit for power, have high batting averages. They don't require a lot of thought. But there are a few, scattered throughout the draft, that offer similar, if slightly lesser, value.

There are 12 players who reached double digits in both homers and steals each of the last two years. The following chart shows those totals, including, in the last two columns, each guy's two-year batting average and two-year combined homers and steals (runs and runs-scored are so context-dependent that I don't think they're as helpful here):

Player 2014
batting average
Michael Brantley 20 23 10 17 70 .307
Ian Desmond 24 24 20 21 89 .267
Brian Dozier 23 21 18 14 76 .243
Carlos Gomez 23 34 24 40 121 .284
Alex Gordon 19 12 20 11 62 .266
Desmond Jennings 10 15 14 20 59 .249
Ian Kinsler 17 15 13 15 60 .276
Starling Marte 13 30 12 41 96 .286
Andrew McCutchen 25 18 21 27 91 .316
Hunter Pence 20 13 27 22 82 .280
Mike Trout 36 16 27 33 112 .305
Ben Zobrist 10 10 12 11 43 .273

It isn't the be-all end-all of numbers, but I do find it interesting. Trout is going first in most drafts, McCutchen second. Carlos Gomez is seventh, according to ESPN's average draft position. But Starling Marte, who has a (slightly) higher combined total than McCutchen and a (slightly) higher batting average than Gomez, is barely going in the top 50.

It's not that easy, obviously. Gomez has 47 homers the last two years, Trout 63, McCtuchen 46. Marte has only 25. The others really do balance their games fairly well, while Marte is a speedster with a little more pop than you might expect. I'm not suggesting Marte deserves first-round consideration. But I am saying that he deserves more of a look than he's getting so far.

The Pirates have at minimum a competent lineup. If Jung-ho Kang unseats Jordy Mercer and meets the hype, they could have a really good lineup. Marte, assuming he maintains his .350ish on-base percentage, will have plenty of run-scoring and/or driving-in opportunities. And he's only 26, which would lead you to believe there's even a leap still ahead of him.

But I keep going back to that chart. No, Marte isn't hitting home runs at a Nelson Cruz-ian pace. Still, that's a high batting average, a lot of steals and enough homers to count as helpful. Trout, McCutchen and Gomez offer that. Hunter Pence too. After that, though, no one offers as nice a combination of the three categories as Marte, even before you consider any age-26 bump he might get.

A lot of players you draft force you to draft a complement as well. (This would have been a perfect time for a Billy Hamilton/Josh Hamilton poetic parallel, but I can't even make that joke now.) The reason the superstars are who they are is because the Trout, McCutchen and Gomez types don't require a follow-along to make it work. But there are only three of those, and if you missed out, then Marte can come on his own. No accompaniment necessary.