In 2011, the Braves brought a group of prospects to Atlanta in mid-September to honor their Pitchers and Players of the Year. Julio Teheran was there. As was Mike Minor and Andrelton Simmons and Evan Gattis. Jose Peraza had not yet made his state-side debut, but he was there. So was Tyler Pastornicky, Randall Delgado, and Zeke Spruill. Lost among this pretty amazing group of young players was the honoree as the Player of the Year for the Gulf Coast League Braves. He lacked the prospect stardom of the young pitchers like Teheran, Minor, and Delgado. He wasn’t a fun little story like Gattis and nobody wondered how far his glove would take him like Simmons. He wasn’t even riding one amazing minor league season like Joey Terdoslavich, the system’s Player of the Year. No, Felix Marte was just a boom-or-bust guy.
Three years later, he was no longer eligible for Player of the Year honors. You see, the only way Marte gets another trip to Atlanta to be honored for his minor league numbers is as a Pitcher of the Year for any club. But that’s how it goes sometimes.
Born in mid-November of 1990 in the Dominican Republic, Marte joined the Braves system as a 2007 signee with Teheran. The 17 year-old only played 21 games in ’08 in the Dominican Summer League and was an after-thought on a team with Christian Bethancourt. Marte began his career in the infield, but soon moved to the outfield for good after booting 9 of 34 chances at shortstop. He would play two more years in the DSL and improved his numbers in both seasons. He may have even impressed some on-lookers in 2010 when he hit .269 with a .823 OPS that includes 26 extra-base hits in 58 games.
With 125 games already under his belt as a professional, the Braves felt it was sink-or-swim time for Marte in 2011 and brought him state-side. He played in the Gulf Coast League and hit well enough to advance (.269/.354/.431), though nothing stood out in his numbers. It was worthy enough of Player of the Year honors in the Braves system for GCL, but the only player who may have been better for the gig was Will Skinner, who hit .300 with 4 HR in 22 fewer games.
The Braves tried to push the situation as Marte was already entering his fifth professional season and pushed him to Rome to open the 2012 season. He struggled in 36 games, hitting .231 and earning this atrocious rate – 4 BB/50 K. The Braves backed off, demoting him to Danville where he waited for their season to open following the draft. He rebuilt some of his value back with a .262/.338/.439 slash for the D-Braves, though you’d like to hope someone with four years of experience who was just about the same age as the rest of the league would do better if he had the potential.
That led to the make-or-break season of 2013. Back at Rome to open the season, he homered in his fourth game – something he failed to accomplish in the 36 game run during the 2012 season. However, that was one of just three homers over the entire year for Marte. He did add nine triples, but finished the year with a .241/.296/.355 slash. He wasn’t even able to start slow, but finish strong. He hit lefties better than righties, but not enough to call him a lefty masher.
Naturally, the Braves weren’t anxious to bring back Marte for a seventh year to re-inforce what they already knew. His bat just couldn’t cut it. So why not try the mound instead? I don’t know if the Braves pushed it or Marte suggested it. But either way, he returned to Danville to open 2014 as a pitcher. In ten games and 12.1 ING, Marte struck out nine and posted a 1.05 WHIP. He was a free agent heading into last offseason, but the Braves worked to bring him back and he made his return to Rome to open this season. Coming into Saturday’s games, Marte had received a call to pitch five times and in 7.1 ING, he had yet to allow an earned run. He had walked five and struck out four.
Finding scouting reports for non-draftees isn’t easy. It’s especially hard for outfielders who were moved to the mound in 2013. I can assume he’s got some intriguing movement and/or velocity. There’s got to be something there for the Braves to even put the time and resources into helping him reach new heights on the mound. We’ll see if he becomes an interesting story as the season progresses.