Although he was perpetually young for his level, Ketel Marte more than held his own at every stop as he ascended through the Mariners system. In 2013, he posted a 91 wRC+ as a 19-year-old between Low-A and High-A. In 2014, at the tender age of 20, he put up a 105 spot between Double-A and Triple-A. This year, his .314/.359/.410 showing in Triple-A resulted a 107 wRC+. Even more impressive is that he did all of this while primarily playing shortstop.
Yet, despite his history of success at a young age, Marte’s always flown under the prospect radar. He’s never appeared on a top 100 list, and barely made Kiley McDaniel’s top 200 list heading into the season.
With Robinson Cano banged up last week, the Mariners called Marte up to the majors. But in typical Ketel Marte fashion, his call up flew under the radar, overshadowed by this year’s wild trade deadline. I’ll admit I didn’t even notice he had been called up until just a couple of days ago.
Marte may have arrived in the majors with little fanfare, but his numbers suggest he’s someone worthy of our attention. Very few 21-year-olds are capable of hitting better than the average Triple-A hitter. Yet Marte’s managed to do precisely that, while also playing shortstop and stealing bases.
KATOH likes Marte a lot. My system forecasts the infielder for 11.9 WAR through age-28, which would have made him the 6th ranked prospect in the preseason. KATOH was similarly impressed by his 2014 campaign, which yielded a forecast of 8.6 WAR through age-28.
Let’s see what’s become of hitters who performed similarly to Marte at the Triple-A level. Using league-adjusted, regressed stats, along with age, I calculated the Mahalanobis Distance between Marte’s performance and every Triple-A season since 1990 in which a batter recorded at least 400 plate appearances. Below, you’ll find a list of historical players whose performances were nearest and dearest to Marte’s, ranked from most to least similar.
*Batters who have yet to play their age-28 season.
There are some really good names in there! However, Marte’s top comp is Jacoby Ellsbury, which doesn’t quite feel right. Let’s see what things look like if we limit the field to just middle infielders.
Marte is cut from the same mold as Jose Peraza, who the Braves dealt to the Dodgers in last week’s mega deal. Both are speedy, contact-oriented middle infielders with minimal power. Yet both held their own as 21-year-olds in Triple-A this year. It seems to me that this type of player is often underrated by the scouting community.
Marte’s upside is certainly limited. He has very little power, rarely walks and may not be able to stick at shortstop. But players with these same limitations have succeeded before. Damion Easley, Omar Infante, Adam Kennedy and Chone Figgins did it; and there’s little reason to think Ketel Marte can’t do it too.
Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.
A) It’s not at all odd that a CF would show up as a top comp, as Marte’s seen some action out there, and it will likely be his path of least resistance to the majors (with Seattle).
B) Never – EVER – tell Mariners fans that one of the top prospects has a lot in common with Chone Figgins. Ever.
I lol’d a li’ bit right there