No. 25: Luis Marte
Luis Marte was signed as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2005. He made his professional debut with the Dominican Summer League (DSL) Tigers in 2006 as a 19 year old. Following the 2006 season, in which he dominated, Marte was given an aggressive assignment to Class A-West Michigan, jumping both the GCL Rookie Tigers and the Short Season teams, something that's almost unheard of. While at West Michigan, Marte did more than hold his own while splitting time between starting and relieving. 2008 saw more of the same, as Marte split time between Rookie ball, Class Advanced A-Lakeland, and Class Double A-Erie; the vast majority of his innings coming as a starter, where he posted a solid 3.76 ERA as a 21 year old at advanced levels. In 2009, Marte spent the entirety of the season at Double A, where his numbers took a turn for the worse, and the Tigers decided that perhaps he was better suited for the bullpen. 2010 was a rough year from a hard numbers standpoint, but since it was Marte's first season as strictly a reliever, some bumps in the road were to be expected. What was encouraging was that in 2010 his K/9 rose by more than 2, speaking to the fact that his stuff played much better as a reliever. In 2011, Marte essentially "broke out" as a reliever, posting a 1.92 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and a very nice 11.2 K/9, while the BB/9 lowered to 3.5. He also made his major league debut in 2011, throwing 3 2/3 innings with Detroit. As we all know, Marte won the last spot in the bullpen out of spring training in 2012, but an injury forced him to stay behind in Lakeland while the team traveled north. He did eventually get to Detroit in 2012, working mostly as a middle reliever, posting a very nice 2.82 ERA across over 22 innings with the club.
Marte is on the small side, especially for a right handed reliever, standing only 5'10" or 5'11", but he weighs in at a very solid 200lbs. His strength is evident just by looking at him, as he has a very good build, especially in his lower half. The problem with his height is that he struggles to get a good downward plane to the plate, which leaves his fastball flatter and more hittable than someone who stands 6'3" or so. He features 4 pitches: a fastball, curve, slider, and change. The fastball sits in the low 90's, usually around 92-93, but he has the ability to ramp it all the way up to 96-97 in short bursts. He has plus plus arm speed, which helps him make up for the lack of downward plane to his height. His curve ball is among the best in the organization, a pitch that I would easily give a 60 grade to, although it has flashed higher. The slider is also a solid pitch, flashing 55 potential at times, but won't grade much higher due to a lack of down to it, as it relies mostly on horizontal break. I haven't seen much of Marte's change, but what I have seen tells me that it's a useable pitch in his repertoire, while not being much more than a 50 pitch. One would think that with 4 pitches, all grading out at least at 50, and with solid command, maybe the Tigers should consider returning Marte to his original role as a starter? There are some durability concerns, and his stuff plays better out of the pen, so I'd keep Marte where he is.
Marte has the ceiling of a 7th inning reliever, with the more likely landing spot being a 1-3 innings middle reliever. He has the stuff to miss bats and be effective over the course of a couple innings, but I don't see the dominating stuff it takes to profile as an 8th inning guy or closer. Regardless, Marte is a good pitcher and is valuable to the team. I would almost assume that Marte starts the season in Detroit's bullpen, especially now with the news that Brayan Villarreal is having some arm trouble (although the extent of whatever damage there is is unknown).