Marte again the D-backs' man on the move

February 23rd, 2021

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Like so many people, D-backs star would just as soon forget that 2020 even happened.

Not only did his team struggle to a last-place finish in the National League West, but it was a year that saw Marte put up good numbers, but not as good as the ones he did during his breakout 2019 season, when he finished fourth in the NL Most Valuable Player Award voting.

"What happened last year has passed," Marte said. "Maybe some of the health protocols hurt the team a little bit. It wasn’t the season we were expecting. But this year I’m looking forward to having a better season and adapting to the health [protocols]."

Marte had a .287/.323/.409 slash line last year, while spending most of the season at second base. It was a contrast from 2019, when he hit .329/.389/.592 and started 89 games in center and 45 at second base.

One area that Marte knows he needs to work on is his patience at the plate. With last year being just a 60-game season, he said he put pressure on himself to get off to a good start and chased pitches more often than he should have.

As a result, his on-base percentage dipped and his walk rate went from 8.4% in 2019 to just 3.6% last year.

"I’ve always worked hard, and I never doubted the talent or the numbers I put up in 2019," Marte said. "And I expect to do that again in 2021."

The D-backs are counting on that being the case. General manager Mike Hazen refers to Marte as a "superstar" and the player who makes the offense go.

A switch-hitter, Marte struggled from the left side of the plate last year, hitting just .233 from that side as opposed to .423 from the right side.

"I don't see any reason, other than maybe some mechanical inconsistencies with his left-handed swing," Hazen said about the drop in Marte's overall numbers last year. "I feel like he's going be able to figure [those] out and iron [them] out. And if we had [100] more games last year, I'm very confident he would have figured it out last year, but we didn't get that.

“He crushed right-handed, he looks great, he's an elite athlete, he's young, he's smart, he's a good hitter."

Defensively it looks like Marte again will bounce around from second base to center field, as well as be a backup at shortstop.

Marte's ability to do that greatly increases the options manager Torey Lovullo has for making out his lineup.

"Wherever Torey needs me in the lineup, I’ll be ready," Marte said. "Whether it’s in the outfield or at second base. I’d like someday to play one position and possibly win a Gold Glove, but I’ll keep doing what the club is asking me to do just to win games and be in the lineup every day."

According to Hazen and Lovullo, they've had preliminary talks with Marte about playing different positions this year, but they haven't mapped out what that's going to look like in terms of number of games at each.

"The No. 1 priority here is putting Ketel Marte in the best position possible for him to go out and have the absolute best season," Hazen said. "Part of that is going to be based on his input. We just haven't sat down and actually like dug into, 'What do you need to do to prepare for this? How are you going to prepare for this? If backup shortstop, is a piece of this, what do you need for that? Is that realistic?'"