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Is It Legit? Ketel Marte's Breakout


We keep rolling with our preseason edition of "Is It Legit?" to discuss another surprising breakout performer from the 2018 MLB season in order to assess his value heading into 2019.

With so many players seemingly becoming fantasy baseball darlings overnight, it can be challenging to sift through the multiple hype trains and determine which players are actually expected to produce similar, or even better, numbers the following year.

Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Ketel Marte played his first full-season in 2018. While his .260 batting average remained identical to his 2017 season, Marte's power emerged with a career-high 14 home runs, 26 doubles, 12 triples and a .177 ISO. Is the power legit or was Marte's extra-base proficiency a flash in the pan?

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Can Marte Keep Providing Power?

Marte's power surge in 2018 looks very repeatable when evaluating his hard-hit rate. Backtracking, 2016 was Marte's first full-time foray into the big leagues. While with the Mariners, Marte ranked among the worst in the league in hard-hit rate (19.9%), barrel rate (0.3%), exit velocity (83.6), walk rate (3.9%) and xWOBA (.250). Basically, he was one of the weakest hitters in the entire league, and his plate discipline wasn't doing him any favors.

The Mariners had seen enough, jettisoning him and right-hander Taijuan Walker to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger. While the move has been a wild success for Seattle, Marte's emergence is one to watch.

Marte only played 73 games in 2017, but he made big strides in his batted ball profile, posting a 35.6% hard hit rate and an exit velocity of 86.6. He slashed .260/.345/.395 with five home runs and three steals - putting him on the radar in deeper leagues heading into 2018.

Marte picked right up where he left off, mashing 52 extra base hits and slashing a similar .260/.332/.437 with 14 home runs, 68 runs scored and 59 RBI. He tacked on six stolen bases as well, which is a little disappointing after he swiped 11 back in 2016, but is still respectable in today's stolen base climate.

Marte's extra base prowess was backed up by his peripherals, which included continued growth to his batted ball profile. His hard hit rate rose once again to a career-high 36.5% mark. He also made huge strides to his barrel rate, which went from 0.3% in 2016 to 2.7% in 2017 and a whopping 5.0% in 2018.

To put that into more perspective, Marte barreled up just nine balls out of 730 hit between 2015-2017. He barreled up 22 in 2018, on 444 batted balls.

Marte's power will always be somewhat hampered by a 5.7 degree launch angle, which leads to a very high rate of ground balls. His 10.9% HR/FB rate was fairly high, and for a guy who doesn't get the ball in the air all that often, it is a bit of a concern. However, the light air in Arizona should help Marte, and there's reason to believe he will try and lift the ball more next season now that he is striking the ball more consistently.

Steamer600 pegs Marte at 12 home runs, 29 doubles, eight triples, 66 runs, 65 RBI, eight stolen bases and a .280/.346/.435 slash line.

Marte has the tools to hit 15 home runs yet again, and could even approach 20 over a full season if he can improve that launch angle. His stolen base numbers could creep back up toward double-digits as well, making him an appealing late-round flyer in mixed leagues. With A.J. Pollock moving on to L.A., Marte could also add outfield eligibility if he moves to center field as expected. This makes him more versatile, which is an added bonus in deeper leagues.

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