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2020 Arizona Diamondbacks Reviews #6: Ketel Marte

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Which version of Ketel Marte will the D-backs see in 2021?

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
  • Rating: 6.53
  • Age: 27
  • 2020 Stats: 45 G, 195 PA, .732 OPS (.287/.323/.409), 95 wRC+
  • 2020 Salary: $4,400,000
  • 2021 Status: Under contract for $6,400,000

Introduction

In Mike Hazen’s first act as General Manager, he targeted two young players from the Mariners, with those being Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte. It was easy to overlook Ketel when compared with Taijuan, who was a young controllable arm still under team control. Marte burst onto the MLB scene in 2015 with a 112 wRC+ over to 250 PAs with excellent defense and above average defense at a premium defensive position (SS).

He was given the starting shortstop position in 2016 but struggled, regressing in every aspect of the game, leading the Mariners to look at upgrading the position and with Jean Segura coming off an MVP season at SS, the pieces fit for a trade.

Ketel torched Reno, like most players do, and was called up to the MLB roster in the middle of the 2017 season and has been a large part of the team since then.

He cemented himself as an everyday player in 2018, hitting 14 homers and a 2.6 WAR while playing mostly at 2nd base. His performance earned him a lengthy extension. If all the team options are picked up, the deal could be worth $46 million across 7 years. After signing the extension, he took an even larger leap in 2019, smashing 32 homers and the team experimented him in CF, which was a huge success. He ended the season with 7.1 WAR, an All-Star appearance, and to top it off, a 4th place finish in the MVP race.

2020 Review

After a flurry of win-now moves in the offseason after being swept by the Dodgers in the playoffs, the team was centered on getting back in the playoffs with Marte at the forefront. Marte seemed poised for a repeat of 2019 if Spring Training was any indication, He hit 2 homers with an OPS of 1.027 and was finally going to stick at his favored position, 2nd base.

The delayed start didn’t seem to affect Ketel as he slashed a solid .344/.371/.531 across a very small sample of 9 games in July. From then on, Marte just wasn’t the same player, with a .274/.312/.384 (.696 OPS) across 37 games. To make matters worse, he wasn’t walking, with just a 3.6% BB rate, tanking his overall OPS and the progression he made against RHP was reversed from 2019, as Ketel slashed .233/.277/.310 on the 2020 season compared with a .327/.396/.577 with 20 homers to buoy his total stats on the year. A wrist injury shut him down for 14 days in September, and while he had 4 hits in 5 games once he returned, he still wasn’t the same MVP caliber guy we had grown accustomed to in the previous season.

Looking into the whys of his decline from year to year is fairly simple, Marte just didn’t hit the ball as hard as year’s previous. His Hard% in 2020 was almost 10% points lower than 2019, leading to more Medium% and Soft%. Those numbers correlate to the drastic drop in HR/FB%, which saw a drop from 19.0% to a paltry 3.8%. His LD/GB/FB (line drive, ground ball, fly ball) rates seem virtually the same so it really circles back onto why his hard hit percentage fell as much as it did.

2021 Outlook

Questions surround this team from all angles, and at the center of them all is whether 2020 was a fluke year, for not just Ketel Marte, but every Diamondback player. The long extension he signed is starting to kick in with very workable numbers, but if 2020 is a new normal for Marte, this deal may go from an extremely team friendly one to a partnership that ends with the team declining their portion of the options. I wouldn’t go that far, but some of the questions that Ketel and management need to answer are:

Which version of Ketel Marte will the D-backs get going forward? The team feels his swing got out of wack last year and hitting coach Darnell Coles gave Marte some things to work on before returning for Spring Training.

Where will Ketel Marte play? When the team traded Starling Marte, Ketel Marte played 8 of his 11 remaining games in an infield position of some sort, with all of them except 1 being at 2nd base. Lovullo has mentioned Marte may see time in CF again, as well as SS and 2nd. Glean whatever information you want from the image of his defensive position splits from 2019 I’ll post below but it’s at least interesting to see Marte hit better when playing CF vs the infield.

How will Ketel Marte respond after his worst season in a D-back uniform? Ever since arriving in Arizona, Marte has been on an upward trend, with a large extension and MVP votes but the one thing he’s never experienced is adversity on the playing field. It will be interesting to see how he, and the team, respond to the lowest win percentage since 2014.

Thanks for reading and let me know what you think.