D-backs' roster layout? 'It starts with Ketel'

Marte's flexibility to play 2B and CF is a luxury -- which will he play regularly?

February 18th, 2021

Speculating about where will play has become an annual Spring Training theme in D-backs camp.

For now, the answer is: TBD

When the D-backs lost center fielder AJ Pollock to free agency after the 2018 season, Marte was asked to play center field after seeing time there in just nine Minor League games earlier in his pro career.

Marte made the transition seamlessly and found himself being shuttled back and forth between center and second base, with the occasional start at shortstop thrown in as well.

When the D-backs acquired Starling Marte to play center in 2020, Ketel Marte was shifted back to primarily second base, playing just three games in center.

"We are extremely fortunate to have a superstar player that does what Ketel does," D-backs GM Mike Hazen said. "There are so many benefits to that with this team -- and the person and his mindset to that. I think he looks at it like, 'I’m going to show everyone how good I am everywhere,' and that plays to our benefit.

"I think the challenge it presents is: the more options it gives us, the more time we’re going to sit and chew a situation to death. Ketel is our best player. We are going to try to put Ketel in position to have the best season of his career, like we do everyone."

Hazen spent an hour with manager Torey Lovullo and others Thursday morning, going over different combinations of lineups with Marte in center and some with him at second. There are a lot of moving parts in those equations, and they involve multiple players.

Knowing that they are asking a lot from him, the D-backs like to include Marte in any discussions about where he might play rather than just take for granted that he will be OK with it.

Though he didn't specifically say so, it appears Hazen wants to make sure that Marte is once again OK about playing either position. If he is, it gives Lovullo a lot of flexibility when making up the lineup each day.

"The luxury it affords us is that it allows us to be even more creative with how we feel we’re putting the best eight hitters on the field on a given day," Hazen said. "The downside to that is what impact does that have on Ketel, because he’s always the guy who has to make the adjustment. We are going to talk about different positions. I would imagine he’s going to play, and hope to play, multiple positions. If we anchor him at one spot, that is TBD right now."

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Once they have clearance from Marte that he is fine playing either position, that could influence what spots are open on the roster and who will fill them.

Say outfielder Tim Locastro has a big spring, then he could get more at-bats in center while Marte plays more second base. The same is true for Daulton Varsho, a catcher by trade, but someone who showed last year that he is capable of playing center.

On the flip side, if one of the infielders competing for a spot or playing time -- Josh Rojas, Josh VanMeter, Asdrúbal Cabrera, Wyatt Mathisen, Andy Young, etc. -- has a big spring and they want to get him more playing time, then maybe Marte plays more center.

"We’ll sit down and talk through all these things with [Marte]," Hazen said. "I can’t go into extreme detail because I don’t have the extreme detail right now. But it starts with Ketel. So, we’re going to start there."