Around the middle of the last decade, Andy Marte was one of the hottest prospects in baseball. Baseball America listed him as one of their top 15 prospects prior to three straight seasons (2004: #11, 2005: #9, 2006: #14). It wasn't just Baseball America, in 2006 Baseball Prospectus had him as the #3 prospect in the game.
Marte was considered the jewel of the venerable Braves system when he was traded to Boston for Edgar Renteria in 2005, which only served to increase his reputation. He had an old school pedigree with Atlanta, and had been acquired by the hot -hot stat-friendly Red Sox. Then, weirdly, just a month after acquiring him in January of 2006, Boston sent Marte to Cleveland in a complicated deal for Coco Crisp. Everyone thought it was odd that he was traded twice in just a few months, but then again, it wasn't a bad thing if Theo Epstein and Marc Shapiro both wanted you.
And that was the high-point of Andy Marte's career.
Marte is still around, only it's hard to notice. Marte has been in Cleveland since 2006, and is now a backup 1B/3B with no apparent future with the Indians. In his age 26 season, when he's supposed to be nearing his prime, Marte can't find at bats on a bad Cleveland team, hitting .200 with one home run. Marte is a career .215/.274/.352 hitter in 784 career plate appearances. Marte has never hit better than .232 and has shown almost no power. To date, Marte has homered in exactly 2% of his Major League plate appearances. He has become the least valuable baseball quantity: a first baseman who cannot hit.
Back in 2006, Dayton Moore, then the head of the Braves farm system, said this about Marte, "Andy profiles as a guy who has the ability to hit in the middle of the lineup of a championship major league team. He has all the ingredients to be a special hitter."
For Marte, it just never happened, and now it seems clear that it likely never will. The point isn't that there was some mysterious calamity that undid his career, rather that, more simply, sometimes prospects fail. Looking at Baseball America's top prospects in 2006 we can find a number of current stars (Verlander, Fielder, Lester, Zimmerman) but also a number of players who are much closer to Marte, such as Felix Pie or Jeremy Hermida. Some players, like Alex Gordon or even Delmon Young, might now look like busts, but clearly, you can do worse. Marte isn't even a spectacular bust. He's at least scratched out six Major League seasons to date, which is more can be said of a number of players even on BA's Top 100 list.
As fans, we love to get excited about our teams minor league prospects, especially when we acquire them with a top pick in the draft or snag them from another team at the deadline. As with the world of college football and basketball recruiting, the internet has made around the clock analysis of prospect lists and rankings a part of mainstream fandom. However, just as college football fans should always remember Dan Kendra, baseball fans should keep Andy Marte in mind.