After trading Mark Lowe and Dustin Ackley, the Mariners continued to overhaul their roster Friday afternoon, officially recalling Ketel Marte and Jesus Montero from Triple-A Tacoma. Chris Taylor was demoted back to the Rainiers to accommodate the new arrivals.
Marte, 21, has primarily played shortstop in the minors but will probably start at second base while Robinson Cano recuperates, and he could wind up in center field in the long run. He's a plus runner with enough range for shortstop but his footwork is choppy -- particularly on balls to his right -- and most evaluators believe that his arm isn't strong enough for the position. Most organizations would permanently shift him to second, but with Robinson Cano around, that won't happen here. He's started in center a few times in the past week, and he should have the speed necessary to play well out there once he gets acclimated to the outfield.
At the plate, Marte looks ready for the big leagues. He handled Triple-A pitching well, batting .314/.359/.410 in one of the Pacific Coast League's few pitcher-friendly parks. He's a switch-hitter with quick hands and an efficient bat path. He makes a lot of hard contact and while he has 30 power right now, he'll hit his share of doubles into the gaps. He knows the strike zone pretty well but he won't walk much -- he likes to swing and is really good at making contact -- so he'll need to hit for a decent average to be a productive hitter. He's been a touch better as a right-handed hitter but will hold his own from both sides of the plate.
It's a little strange that the Mariners recalled Marte at this point in his development. It appears that Cano won't be starting at second for a few days, but it's odd that the M's are bringing Marte up to play a position that he'll rarely cover for the M's, particularly when he's already learning center field on the fly. Nonetheless, his presence adds intrigue to a Mariners team sorely lacking it right now. In my opinion, he's the Mariners No. 1 prospect at this point and even if he struggles out of the gate, it'll be fun to see him in a big league uniform. It isn't clear that he'll be with the club for an extended period of time, so enjoy him while you can.
Montero's role is also up in the air. He's hit the cover off the ball in Tacoma and did well in a brief stint with the M's earlier this month; with the team out of contention, there's no reason not to give Montero regular playing time at first and DH. He still chases plenty of low breaking balls out of the strike zone but he's back to driving the ball toward right field regularly, demonstrating the impressive plate coverage that made him a highly touted prospect at the beginning of the decade. It's unlikely that Jesus develops into an impact regular, but stranger things have happened and the Mariners are in position to give him every opportunity to prove himself over the last two months of the season.