Trading Jefry Marte for More Cowgill

Marte 2012 B-Mets HeadTuesday,  the Mets traded minor league 3B Jefry Marte to the Oakland A’s for OF Collin Cowgill.

Cowgill, who will be 27 in May 2013, obviously fills a need for the Mets: he can play the outfield and bat right-handed becoming the first Met in 2013 who can do both of those things. In a whopping 95 MLB plate appearances, he’s hit .298/.379/.405 with five extra-base hits and 11 walks against 23 strikeouts against lefthanded pitching. He’s also hit a pathetic .223/.273/.241 in 121 PA against RHP.

His splits are not nearly so dramatic for the last two years in the minors where he hit .281/.330/.536 in 207 PA vs. LHP and .327/.402/.456 in 538 PA vs. RHP. In case you were wondering, in the minors he had a .376 BABIP versus righties and .306 vs. LHP. In the majors, he had a .389 BABIP vs. LHP and a .309 average vs. RHP. Head spinning a little? His high BABIP against righties in the minors disguised a player with a significant platoon split, while his BABIP luck probably exaggerate the extent of his platoon split in the big leagues. That doesn’t make sense.

Marte was a frustrating prospect. In the last three years, I had him ranked #12, #31 and #25 last year. He was going to move up a few spots, but remain outside the top 20 this year coming off a .251/.322/.366 season in double-A in the season in which he turned 21 in June. He got off to a crazy start in April, hitting .358/.421/.478 in May, but then did not hit .265 again in any full month in 2012. However, dig a little deeper, however, and Marte’s numbers continue to show incremental improvement over his previous campaigns. His 2012 strikeout rate of 14.8 was his lowest in a full-season down from a high of 22.2% back in 2009 in the South Atlantic League, and had dropped every season since. His 1.8% HR rate was his highest ever, up from 1.1% in 2009. His 2012 walk rate of 8.4% was similarly, his best ever and he’s been above 7.6% in every season since 2010 in the SAL. That’s the good statistically.

He’s a strong, thickly built kid. That’s neither good nor bad. Strength is good for hitting. Bulk is bad for running and trying to play third base – a position that requires an incredible degree of agility.

And lets talk about Marte’s work at third base. It has never been pretty. He committed 49 errors in Savannah in 2009 and 25 in 2010. He was better, although not ready to play major league defense at third. He dropped down to 15 errors in 2012, his lowest number in any full season. He also played a quintet of rough games at first. Note that his range factor (the number of plays he actually made per game) of 2.15 was less than in his two seasons in Savannah. I’m just not sold on the idea of Jefry Marte ever playing an MLB caliber third base. His arm is weak for the position and neither his hands nor feet are anything better ok.

Can the 21-year old Marte’s bat continue to develop to the point that he can support a move to first base? Can his defense improve to the point where it’s just below average instead of completely unacceptable? These are worthwhile risks for the A’s to take. And strong enough questions to allow the Mets to make an improvement to their outfield, especially against LHP in 2013.