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Ketel Marte Named Starting Second Baseman for National League All Stars

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The fans have decided that Ketel Marte was absolutely deserving of a start in the 2019 Midsummer Classic.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in his young career, Ketel Marte will be not only a participant but also in the starting lineup of the 2019 Midsummer Classic. Marte (549,959 votes) edged out Ozzie Albies of the Atlanta Braves (480,110), and Mike Moustakas from the Milwaukee Brewers (371,280). Marte becomes the second Arizona Diamondback to start at second base in the All Star game since Jay Bell did so twenty years ago. Ketel is the fifth different position player in franchise history to start including Jay Bell (1999), Matt Williams (1999), Luis Gonzalez (2001), and Paul Goldschmidt (2014-2015) according to an MLB press release.

This isn’t just a case of a strong social media push from the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, they did a tremendous job in drawing support for him, he truly is the most deserving of the men he was going up against. To say that 2019 has been a career year for Marte would be a tremendous understatement. Marte currently owns an impressive 141 OPS+/wRC+. That’s a 40% improvement over his career average. For those of you unfamiliar with those metrics, in simple terms OPS+ and wRC+ seek to measure the totality of a player’s offensive production, accounting for the differences in park effects, in comparison to the rest of the league. 100 is average, anything above 100 is above average, anything below is below average. He’s hit almost as many home runs this season (20) as he had in his entire career prior to 2019 (22) in just a fraction of plate appearances.

Critics may argue that he is a beneficiary of an altered baseball, but the fact of the matter is that he has still made substantial improvements to his game. Per Baseball Savant, his average launch angle has increased from 5.7 degrees in 2018 to 11.7 degrees in 2019, and his average exit velocity has increased 2 miles per hour. He’s hitting the ball harder and higher which would have improved his power numbers regardless of changes to the baseball. This is on top of his above average sprint speed. These factors combined have allowed him to lead the National League in hits (100) to this point in the season. All of these positive trends come at the same time he has been learning a new fielding position. Ketel has split roughly half of his time at center field, one of the most challenging defensive positions. Before the 2019 season, he’d played two games at center field all the way back in 2015.

Hardly any players work as hard as this young man in the offseason. I’ve long been a fan of his workouts in his native Dominican Republic during the winter which he frequently publishes on social media.

His dedication to constant improvement has drawn frequent praise by various writers here at the Snake Pit. Jack Sommers foresaw an All Star nod with sustained improvement toward the end of last season, and Sean Testerman discussed his power surge earlier in the season. This remarkable breakout comes on the heels of a team friendly 5 year $24 million dollar contract he signed prior to the start of the 2018 season which also includes team options for 2023 & 2024.

All Star Starters

2019 All Star Starters

Position American League National League
Position American League National League
C Gary Sanchez Wilson Contreras
1B Carlos Santana Freddie Freeman
2B DJ LeMahieu Ketel Marte
3B Alex Bregman Nolan Arenado
SS Jorge Polanco Javier Baez
OF Mike Trout Christian Yelich
OF George Springer Cody Bellinger
OF Michael Brantley Ronald Acuna Jr
DH Hunter Pence

Reserves and pitchers for both leagues will be chosen through a combination of player ballots and selections from the Commissioner’s Office and announced Sunday, June 30th at 5:30 PM EST.