In Major League Baseball, July 31st is a date that is filled with significance; it's the trade deadline! The unofficial start of the playoff race, where teams proclaim themselves to be either buyers or sellers, winners or losers, throw-everything-to-the-wind-ers or maybe-next-year-ers. This season, the Seattle Mariners made two trades on the deadline, flipping J.A. Happ and Mark Lowe for a handful of youngish pitchers. It was one of the M's busier deadlines over the past several seasons. However, they also made another transaction on July 31st that might just end up being one of the more impactful moves they've made in recent club history.
Ketel Marte was called up to the big-league club to moderate fanfare. Some people were excited for the addition, tired of watching Chris Taylor not hit and/or Brad Miller throw balls into the stands, while others lamented the fact that the Jack Zduriencik regime was rushing another talented young player who was still a bit too young/undeveloped. At this point, I think it's safe to say that Marte has at least pacified the harshest criticism from most of his detractors. He's swung the bat well and his defense at shortstop has been more than passable. He's certainly nowhere near the perfect player, but he is still very young and has shown that he can hang in the majors... at least for a little bit. The Mariners, of course, have an established history of having their young middle infielders play exceptionally well for their first couple hundred at bats only to cool down mightily and disappoint in their sophomore campaigns. Hopefully Ketel is able to make the required adjustments to his approach and continue to excel on the field.
For some perspective to see just how successful Marte has been as a rookie, I've compared to him to other rookies in M's franchise history. 47 different Mariners accrued at least 150 PA during their rookie campaigns. The top-10 (by WAR/600) are listed below. Our new friend Ketel Marte comes in at fifth.
Some of the gentlemen on this list went on to have fairly storied careers, while others crashed and burned, peaking in their rookie seasons. (I love that Buhner is as the top of this list; it would've taken me quite awhile to guess his name.) Marte's play this year has felt like that of a very good young player, so it's nice/validating to see that he's near the top of this list. Additionally, at just 21 years of age, he's the third youngest rookie position player in Mariners history to snag at least 150 PA. (Only The Kid and Jose Lopez were younger.) Granted, seeing Ackley ranked third on this list is fairly disquieting. What if the same thing happens to Marte!? While this is possible, the addition of a new GM and a probable overhaul to the coaching/scouting staff certainly makes it seem less likely that the same mistakes of past seasons will be repeated moving forward.
There is baseball today. And then baseball tomorrow. But after that, the 2015 season is over and we only have 2016 to look forward to. Ketel Marte will hopefully play a big role on this team next year. I'm excited to see how he continues to develop as a player.