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Arizona Diamondbacks: Is Ketel Marte a Building Block for the Future?

By Randy Holt
PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 29: Infielder Ketel Marte #4 of the Arizona Diamondbacks fields a ground ball out against the San Francisco Giants during the MLB game at Chase Field on June 29, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 29: Infielder Ketel Marte #4 of the Arizona Diamondbacks fields a ground ball out against the San Francisco Giants during the MLB game at Chase Field on June 29, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Arizona Diamondbacks face some uncertainty in regard to their future. With several prominent players set to hit free agency in the next couple of years, it’s looking more and more like they have at least one building block secured for the coming years. But is his status with the Snakes as crucial as we think?

Ketel Marte has had an interesting year. On the surface, it wouldn’t appear to be an impressive one for the Arizona Diamondbacks middle infielder. His slash features an average of just .247 and an on-base of only .307. Neither number inspires a wealth of confidence. His wRC+ checks in at 94, which would paint him as a below average bat, though not significantly. However, while some standard surface categories would lead you to believe he’s had a rough go of it, there are some far more inspiring numbers that would do quite the opposite.

For one, much of Marte’s statistical output is dragged down by a rough start to the year. He hit only .224 in April and a brutal .207 in May. His on-base those months? .259 and .289, respectively. Just brutal stuff. Now there was an element of bad luck as well, with BABIP figures of .250 and .243 in those two months, due largely to obscenely high groundball rates (58.1% combined). His power was virtually nonexistent as well, with a .103 ISO in April and a .080 in May. Given that start, it’s no wonder his season numbers look like they do.

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However, over June and thus far into July, Marte experienced a turnaround for the better. He hit .304 and posted a .350 OBP. His ISO skyrocketed to .236, while his wRC+ went for 153. His .303 BABIP was significantly better than the first two months. His 44.4% hard hit rate was significantly higher than the 30.9% mark that he combined for in April and May.

The turnaround isn’t so much due to a change in pitch selection as it is in zone selection. His pitch type numbers throughout the season have looked largely similar. As far as zone coverage, though, he’s improved his approach. An article from Sports Illustrated’s Michael Beller detailed that zone coverage. As such, it’s no surprise that Marte’s contact numbers from June were miles better than the previous months. He had that 44.4% hard hit rate, along with a lower groundball rate. He also pulled the ball more, which is an interesting wrinkle.

Marte’s name was bandied about in one particular trade scenario involving Manny Machado. But with their hopes of landing the big fish on the trade market fading, the team would be better-suited to hang onto the 24-year-old. Obviously. As much as his in-season turnaround has been fun to watch, he really does have the skill set that can make him a building block for their infield.

He doesn’t walk a ton (just 7.4% for his career), but he doesn’t strike out much either. He’s only punching out at 12.2% this year, with a whiff rate of only 5.8%. His 87.7% contact rate ranks ninth among all qualifying position players. That’s a group of 165 players. As a high contact guy, the only thing you hope for more from Ketel Marte is some production on the power side. He’s sitting at a .182 ISO for the year, thanks to that scorching June. If he can stretch out a full season of something like that, you absolutely love a guy like that in your lineup. And he’s got the defensive chops, to boot.

Marte has proven to be a capable glove at both second base and shortstop. He has three Defensive Runs Saved between the two positions and has graded out positively at each this year. Long-term, it’s unclear which he’ll become more of a mainstay at. In Arizona, that’ll depend on Nick Ahmed‘s status, as he has two arbitration years left with the Diamondbacks.

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When you combine the upside with the bat to the solidness of the glove, you have a very solid baseball player. One definitely worth hanging onto, and one very worthy of the five-year extension he signed before the season began. Odds say he’s quite free and clear of any potential trade scenarios, and he represents a real building block for this Diamondbacks team. There’s more upside to be realized, and he could be an absolute steal with that deal signed before the year began. He’ll be one to continue watching after his output the last month-and-a-half.