Ketel Marte Is Awesome


The 2014 Seattle Mariners were a fun, competitive team that made it within a game of the postseason despite only getting one win above replacement or better out of eight position players – including three who hit below league average. The 2015 Seattle Mariners are incompetent and going nowhere, but have received a win or better from… eight position players! Seven of whom have been above average hitters, including Ketel Marte.

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Ketel Marte generated some buzz this spring after a nice showing in camp. It was even said by some that he was the best shortstop in the M’s system – better even than big leaguers Brad Miller and Chris Taylor. It seemed ambitious at the time, but now… now it might seem like something. And it has nothing to do with Taylor’s floppy season – well, hardly anything, at least.

Marte received his first call-up to the big leagues in late July, right as the Mariners were purging their roster of flops like Dustin Ackley and J.A. Happ (not to mention Mark Lowe, the anti-flop). He’s been a lineup fixture ever since his arrival, often slotting in at leadoff. And he’s been better than expected. In fact, he’s been one of the best players in the league this month.

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During the month of August the best players in the American League have been Josh Donaldson and Nelson Cruz – no surprises there, as they’ve been two of the league’s best all season, really. Then you get guys like Edwin EncarnacionBen Zobrist, and Ian Kinsler, plus lesser-heralded Red Sox Jackie Bradley Jr. and Travis Shaw… and then there’s Marte, the tenth-most valuable AL player this month.

On the year (month), Marte’s hitting .311/.395/.392, good for a 128 wRC+. His defense has been a big plus, and as such he’s already managed to tally 1.0 WAR in under a month’s time. Are there signs that this won’t keep up? Sure. Have we seen this kind of a hot start from *every* other Mariners infield prospect in recent years? Yeahhhh, pretty much. But this one might stick! No really, I swear, this one might stick.

Aug 23, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners shortstop Ketel Marte (4) watches as his sac fly scores a run in the eighth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Marte’s line features two things: a huge OBP and zero power. Those traits are consistent with his minor league track record, as he’s never hit for power yet has always kept his OBP around or above 330. There isn’t anything startling in his current profile. He’s the player he’s always been, just at a new, more challenging level. And he’s excelling.

Maybe you notice Marte’s .377 BABIP and roll your eyes – an elevated BABIP, yeah, nothing we haven’t seen before. But! Marte’s biggest plus abilities are contact and speed, so you’d expect him to turn more of his batted balls into hits than the average player. And what was his BABIP at AAA this year, you ask? .345. Over 287 trips to the plate.

Since emerging in 2013, Marte’s lowest BABIP at any level (extended stays only) was .336. It’s only gone up since then, and given the kind of player he is it seems only fair to assume this is a repeatable skill and not just some kind of luck. He’s a contact-and-speed player with legit contact-and-speed skills. We shouldn’t be surprised that it’s working.

It’s unlikely that Ketel Marte will continue to be this good, but given what he’s shown it’s entirely fair to assume that he’s a major league-caliber player going forward. He’s a nice fit on the roster, as he’s proven a capable defender at second, short, and in the outfield. For now, Ketel Marte is new and exciting. And it looks like there’s a chance that he’ll still be this exciting in the future, even when he’s not so new anymore.

Next: Austin Jackson Generating Trade Interest

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