Starling Marte shines brightly in Pirates camp

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Pirates prospect Starling Marte homered in a second straight game Thursday against the Pirates, though he did make an out in his other at-bat, lowering his spring average to .692.

The 23-year-old Marte busted out from a power standpoint last season in Double-A. His OBPs were nice in previous stops too, but he went from going homerless in 222 at-bats in the Florida State League in 2010 to hitting 12 last year. Overall, he batted .332/.370/.500 in 536 at-bats.

A first-rate defensive center fielder, Marte might be ready to jump to the majors now, though the Pirates have already shut down those kind of thoughts, saying he will open the season in Triple-A. Once he does break in, it will probably be as a left fielder. Marte is likely superior to Andrew McCutchen in center, but McCutchen is pretty good himself and the Pirates won’t move their centerpiece to a corner so quickly after signing him to a six-year deal. A Marte-McCutchen-Jose Tabata outfield might be as good defensively as any in the majors.

Giants nearing deal with Cameron Maybin

Cameron Maybin
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The Giants are finalizing a minor league deal for free agent outfielder Cameron Maybin, according to Andrew Baggarly and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The team has not confirmed the signing, but it’s in keeping with their stated goal of adding more veteran presence and outfield options to their roster in advance of the 2019 season.

Maybin, 31, appeared in back-to-back gigs with the Marlins and Mariners in 2018. He slashed an underwhelming .249/.326/.336 with four home runs, 10 stolen bases (in 15 chances), a .662 OPS, and 0.5 fWAR through 384 plate appearances for the two clubs, a clear improvement over his totals in 2017 but still shy of the career numbers he posted with the Padres all the way back in 2011. It’s not only his offense that has tanked, but his speed and defense in center field, all of which he’ll try to improve as he jockeys for a roster spot in camp this month.

The Giants’ outfield has been largely depleted of any kind of consistent talent lately, especially taking into account the recent departures of Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, and Gorkys Hernández. Even with the acquisition of, say, All-Star right fielder Bryce Harper, there’s nothing standing in the way of Maybin and fellow veteran signee Gerardo Parra grabbing hold of full- or part-time roles this year, though they’ll need to outperform candidates like Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, Drew Ferguson, Mac Williamson, Austin Slater, Craig Gentry, Mike Gerber, and others first.

In a previous report on Friday, Baggarly revealed that a “handshake understanding” had been established with several veteran players already this offseason, all but guaranteeing them regular starting opportunities over the course of the season. How those agreements will be affected by spring training performances remains to be seen, but at least for now, the Giants appear prepared to give their newest players a long leash as they try to get back on top in the NL West.