Position: Right-handed Pitcher
The Tigers' Ramon Pena recommended and signed Marte in November of 2005, after he was already 19-years old. Marte debuted on the field for the Tigers in 2006 in the Dominican Summer League, and he promptly dominated the competition with an 8-0 record and 1.38 ERA in eleven starts.
Marte struck out 90 DSL hitters in just 65 innings, giving him 12.46 strikeouts per nine innings; good enough for second in the league. His eight wins and 90 strikeouts were good enough for third in the league. Marte's incredible season earned him TigsTown's DSL Pitcher of the Year award.
The Tigers brought Marte stateside for the 2007 season, and after starting the year in the GCL, he was quickly promoted to West Michigan where he more than held his own in his first exposure to full-season ball. Working largely in relief, Marte appeared in 15 games for the Whitecaps, compiling a 2.83 ERA and 36 strikeouts against just eleven walks in just 35 innings.
Marte was at his best in the Midwest League playoffs, seeing action in three games totaling ten innings, with a 0.90 ERA and 15 strikeouts.
The domination by Marte continued to start the 2008 season in Lakeland, as he was dubbed by one scout as the ‘most dominating minor league pitcher I saw in the first half of that season.' Making seven starts for the Flying Tigers, Marte continued to make hitters whiff, striking out 41 in 41 innings, and finishing his time in Lakeland with a 1.98 ERA.
A promotion to Erie was in order, and while Marte posted a far more lofty 5.05 ERA in ten starts, he still showed promise, allowing just 57 hits in 57 innings. His strikeout rate dipped and his walks increased in his first exposure to advanced hitters, but he showed flashes of domination at Double-A as well.
Marte returned to Double-A Erie for the 2009 season, and he improved in nearly every facet of the game. Marte allowed 106 hits in 105 1/3 innings of work over 19 appearances. After walking 25 in just 57 innings in 2008, Marte walked only 28 in nearly double the innings, while striking out 84.
When he is right, Marte features a power fastball that sits comfortably in the 92-93 range, and can touch 95 with regularity. Marte consistently displayed that velocity in 2007 and 2008, but he was far more erratic in 2009; sometimes working at only 88-91. Marte lacks a ton of movement on his fastball, and he tends to work up in the zone too frequently, leaving him susceptible to home runs. His small stature can often leave his fastball in one plane, stealing needed deception and angle on his heater.
Marte has the best slider in the Tigers' minor league system, and it is a true swing and miss offering that he is comfortable using in any count. Marte has improved his ability to throw his slider as a chase pitch, but he still maintains an ability to keep it around the zone for called strikes. He can rely on his slider a bit too much when things get tough, and he will need to learn to set up the pitch better in coming seasons.
Marte also features a change-up that he can throw regularly, but it lacks consistency in both command and movement. Marte struggled throwing the change-up in 2009, leaving him prone to being hit hard by lefties. If he is to remain in the rotation, Marte will have to throw his change-up more consistently to keep left-handers from eating him alive.
Marte has some effort in his delivery, and that has led to some injury problems over the last two years, and most scouts have maintained a belief that he profiles better in the bullpen where he can let it fly for an inning or two at a time, and rely heavily on his fastball-slider combo.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG AA
The 2008 season saw Marte struggle with an elbow injury during his time at Erie, but the injury did not require surgery and he was able to return to the mound. The Tigers sent him to the AFL to pick up additional innings, but Marte was sidelined for part of the fall league with soreness in a muscle in his right shoulder. Marte returned to the mound again in the AFL and was not forced to the operating table.
Again in 2009, Marte battled a shoulder injury; one that forced him to the 7-day DL in July, and he was not activated until September.
The problems with his elbow and shoulder the last two years are concerning for a player with a smallish frame and lingering concerns among scouts regarding his durability going forward.
Rumblings have Marte moving to the bullpen full time in 2010, though that move will likely not be finalized until sometime during spring training when the team determines how the starting rotations will fall out across the minor league system.
A move to the bullpen may lengthen Marte's career, giving him an opportunity to remain healthy over a full season, while still developing into a dominating piece of a Major League pitching staff.
The Tigers opted not to add Marte to the 40-man roster this week, leaving him vulnerable to the Rule 5 draft in December. A team could take a chance on Marte in a Major League bullpen, but it would likely be difficult to keep him on the roster all year long.
If back with the Tigers, Marte will likely return to Double-A Erie in 2010, and a strong start to the year could put him in a position to get a quick call to Detroit should needs arise on the Major League pitching staff.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.