Starling Marte's fantasy outlook improves slightly with Diamondbacks

Starling Marte, who has stolen at least 20 bases for the Pirates every year since his sophomore campaign, will play outfield for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2020. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With the acquisition of Starling Marte from the Pirates on Monday -- in exchange for a pair of 19-year-old, lower-minors prospects in starting pitcher Brennan Malone and shortstop Liover Peguero -- the Diamondbacks upgraded their lineup and also gave manager Torey Lovullo more options for his daily starting nine. The Marte par-tay can now really begin in Arizona.

In the best arrangement for fantasy, Marte should presumably slide into center field for his new team, despite the fact that his 2019 defensive metrics there paled in comparison to Ketel Marte's (though Ketel's did come in a 453 ⅔-inning smaller sample). Ketel Marte should return to second base, shifting Eduardo Escobar to third base on a more full-time basis and relegating Jake Lamb to a backup/platoon role.

Considering the increasing number of matchups-driven lineup strategies in the majors these days, though, Starling Marte's arrival in Arizona might ultimately give Lovullo the opportunity to mix and match all over the diamond on any given night, à-la the team he's chasing in the division, the Dodgers. That's not a bad arrangement for fantasy -- the strengthening of individual matchups sometimes offsets the season-long decrease in volume, because it boosts the potential of that hitter's offensive rates -- but it does diminish the prospects of the kind of season that, say, Escobar had when he came to the plate 699 times in 2019 (10th-most in baseball).

Ultimately, Lamb is probably hurt the most due to the playing-time drop, with speedy outfield reserve Tim Locastro next, things that will mainly affect those in NL-only leagues. It helps that this team cleared out 1,265 plate appearances from free agents Jarrod Dyson, Wilmer Flores and Adam Jones in 2019, while adding only 632 from right fielder Kole Calhoun (the algebra leaving out the Diamondbacks' catcher shuffle), so perhaps there's enough playing time to go around that nothing will change. Besides, that turnover has to be considered a net gain for the Diamondbacks, meaning that Marte's arrival surely will only contribute to more runs and RBIs up and down the lineup as well as greater odds of it turning over an additional time each night.

For Marte individually, getting out of Pittsburgh's PNC Park can't be seen as anything but a positive for his power stroke. Amongst the 30 regular ballparks last season, the 102 home runs hit by right-handers in 2019 was second-fewest ahead of only Kauffman Stadium's (Kansas City) 99. The park factors since the venue's opening have routinely placed PNC as one of the three worst power parks for righty sluggers, alongside Miami's Marlins Park (which moved the fences in slightly for 2020) and San Francisco's Oracle Park.

That's not to say that Arizona's Chase Field is a power heaven for Marte, being that it has played much more neutral-to-slightly-pitcher-friendly in two seasons since the team installed a humidor. There were only 125 homers hit by righty bats there in 2019, 19th out of the 30 regular venues, and Chase Field ranked just 20th in terms of home run park factors for righties in 2018. It's still enough of a boost that Marte shouldn't have much trouble remaining in the 20s in terms of homers, regardless of the makeup of the baseball, giving him about as good odds of a 25/25 season as anyone in the game.

The No. 27 name on our 2019 Player Rater, Starling Marte shouldn't have much trouble repeating and perhaps even exceeding that status in 2020. Previously my No. 13 outfielder and No. 34 name overall, he's now my No. 11 outfielder and No. 27 pick overall, bumping down both George Springer and Giancarlo Stanton in the ranks.