Arizona Diamondbacks: Will Ketel Marte be an MVP candidate again?

CLEVELAND, OHIO - JULY 09: Ketel Marte #4 of the Arizona Diamondbacks during the 2019 MLB All-Star Game at Progressive Field on July 09, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - JULY 09: Ketel Marte #4 of the Arizona Diamondbacks during the 2019 MLB All-Star Game at Progressive Field on July 09, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Arizona Diamondbacks 2B Ketel Marte put up 7.1 fWAR last season, slashing .329/.389/.592 while hitting 32 homers. Can He do it again in 2020?

If you aren’t familiar with the work Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Ketel Marte did in 2019, we won’t blame you. Especially when you consider that he wasn’t very memorable up until that season. In fact he had only been worth 4.7 fWAR in four seasons prior to 2019.

So let’s do a quick crash course.

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Marte is the second baseman for the Diamondbacks and was the main reason they hung around in the Wild Card race late into the season.

Marte put up 7.1 fWAR, slashing .329/.389/.592 while hitting 32 homers (his previous career-high was 14) to go along with 36 doubles (13th in the NL) and 9 triples (second in the NL).

Before 2019 Marte was a career .263 hitter and had a career slugging percentage of .389. So you could say he broke out in 2019.

How did Ketel Marte make such a big jump though?

Well for starters, he started hitting the ball harder. Marte made “hard” contact at a career-high clip of 40% in 2019, a good start. He also joined the launch angle revolution, hitting the ball at an average angle of 11.5 degrees, up from 5.7 degrees in 2018.

What else changed?

In 2019 Marte swung at more than 70% of pitches inside the strike zone for the first time in his career and made contact with those pitches over 90% of the time. He also changed which pitches he was choosing to swing at.

If you take a look at Marte’s Baseball Savant swing profile you’ll see that in 2018 Marte focused his approach almost exclusively in the heart of the plate. He was hardly ever swinging outside of the zone. And even if it was in the zone, he was sometimes taking. These both changed in 2019.

Marte started swinging at pitches lower in the zone (hello launch angle increase) but just other spots in the zone in general. He got more aggressive.

What about his value with the glove? Marte was decent defensively at second base, recording 1 out above average, which ranked 18th out of all second basemen. And that wasn’t his full-time position, so it stands to reason he could be even better.

Speaking of which Marte’s defense in center field was a different story where he recorded -3 OAA, but with the acquisition of Starling Marte Arizona can move Marte to second base full time.

Marte also added even more value on the basepaths (10 stolen bases).

Basically what we’re getting at here is when you put it all together it’s no surprise Marte finished fourth in MVP voting.

Now the question is can he keep it up?

Well, let’s look at some of the peripheral numbers.

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The hard-hit rate of 40% is great, as long as he can keep that up and make consistent good contact Marte should be in a good spot. The advanced approach he showed in 2019 where he swung more but still struck out just 13.7% of the time also bodes well.

Let’s look at things that are a little harder to quantify. How the Arizona Diamondbacks lineup will be better and offer more protection around its star. Marte batted second most often, with Jarrod Dyson and his .633 leading off and Eduardo Escobar batting third. But now Starling Marte is in town, who put up a .845 OPS for the Pittsburgh Pirates last year. Now Arizona’s top five in the lineup look like: S. Marte, K. Marte, Escobar, David Peralta, and Christian Walker. That’s a lot of legitimate big leaguers to surround Ketel Marte where pitchers can’t just work around him.

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With the Arizona Diamondbacks still firmly chasing the Dodgers, they’ll be Wild Card contenders, but they’ll go as Ketel Marte goes. It’s unreasonable to expect another 7+ WAR season from him, but if the numbers are to be trusted, he’ll still put up All-Star numbers and be the star in Arizona.