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An appreciation for Ketel Marte, the rare fun 2015 Mariner

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Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

If I'm being honest, I wasn't all that excited about Ketel Marte. Going back, we knew if he were to make an appearance in 2015, it'd be a sure sign that things had gone wrong. And things have gone wrong. Beyond that, there was never much of a pedigree with him, having never cracked a top 100 list until midseason this year.

Above all, it seemed only like he'd survived a war of attrition—first against a skill-set that didn't have one standout tool, and then against a season, for the organization, that wiped away every other top prospect who might warrant a call requesting his presence up north. It didn't seem like there was all that much to be excited about.

And then he arrived.

Ketel Marte is a goddamn hoot. Seriously, how fun is he right now?

I am obligated—at least I'm pretty sure I'm obligated—to note that this post is sponsored by Maytag washing machines. We're supposed to select a player who is gets "down and dirty" for their team so, presumably, their line of MAXIMA® washers can get their uniforms clean. Fun fact: psychologically, creating a relationship between two separate memories is the best way to get people to remember both.

Anyway, that is a thing Ketel Marte does. I remain non-committal at this juncture as to how much I'm going to cling to this analogy, and just using the phrase "down and dirty" feels like a cliche that lends itself to forced narratives, but you really struggle not to with Marte.

It's been a while since we've seen a Mariners prospect quite like Ketel. Of recent legitimate prospects, the only one to match him in terms of pure athleticism might be Taijuan Walker. On the position player side, you'd likely have to go all the way back to Greg Halman. It's clear there have been better prospects since—particularly in the middle infield—but not one with the raw athleticism he possesses.

Marte is going to make his mistakes, as it's a problem that's plagued him his whole professional career, but as they've been mostly limited so far, all we have is the ability to relish in the highlights.

To start,

MarteDP

I'm not sure either of the other two shortstops make that play. Not to slight him, but I really think Brad Miller doesn't. And that's a big play. In what was a one-run game, quick reaction, acceleration and an immediate release make the difference between nobody on with two outs and two on with no outs. That's a big swing.

Other times, the whole package isn't present, but the athleticism and the quick reaction that it affords certainly are:

MarteDive

Now, that's a throw Marte should make—but even more-so, the one he made is one Logan Morrison should easily be able to scoop.

Of course, the athleticism plays on offense as well. Last night, Marte hit a leadoff double to open the third inning before promptly stealing third. Franklin Gutierrez would then dinger everyone a few batters later, but it also would've been one of two times Marte stole third in the game had Brett Lawrie not showed Robinson Canó off second on a double steal.

The offensive game isn't all speed either. It's been barely any time at all, yes, but he's still been impressive in multiple facets. To have a manager say, of a 21-year-old, that "we're going to put him in the leadoff spot, see what he can do" and have a .395 OBP be the answer is pretty fun.

Marte currently boasts a 128 wRC+, which wouldn't really be worth noting due to small sample size if it weren't presently the third-highest notch on the team of any semi-regular position player. The power isn't there, obviously, but he has 11 walks to go with fourteen strikeouts and currently is in the bottom 30 in the majors for swinging strike rate for batters who have about as many plate appearances as him.

But, I should note, though the package it's currently being presented in is unique, the overall offensive production to this point is not entirely rare for Mariners middle infield prospects. Here's a look at where a few guys were after roughly as many PAs as Marte:

  • Dustin Ackley, 134 wRC+: Ohmygod he's a Hall-of-Famer, this is amazing.
  • Nick Franklin, 137 wRC+: Woooooooo, we got Kyle Seager part deux at second.
  • Brad Miller, 122 wRC+: What an amazing mix of Ted Williams and a baby deer.
  • Chris Taylor, 130: Okay but we know this is BABIP tomfoolery.
  • Ketel Marte, 128 wRC+: Finally, a prospect who comes up and hits. This never happens.

Will Ketel Marte carry on with this 128 wRC+ and near-.400 OBP indefinitely? Probably not. I mean, the kid's playing at about a 7-win pace right now and I'd say that might be a touch too much to expect.

Also, there are the warning signs. He's currently carrying a BABIP of .377—though that isn't at Taylor's absurd .430+ lines, is only six points above where he was in Tacoma this year, and .30 above where he finished last season. It'll come down, but the contact will play.

Also, there is the part where he's running a 12.6 percent walk rate, something he's never come close to in the minors save for the 10.3 percent he put up in his first season in pro ball, in the 2011 Dominican Summer League. But, then again, the contact: the 16.1 percent strikeout rate is about what you'd expect, as he was actually at nine percent this year in Tacoma, and below 15 percent at every step of his minor league career.

The kid grinds. He grinds, he has fun and he plays with a bit of flair. But again, at the backbone of it all there's legitimate talent. We can worry all we want about what he ends up being and when eventually the warts will show, but right now, Ketel Marte is a lot of fun.

This isn't a team that has all that many fun stories, so maybe hold onto that skepticism for now. The baseball season is long, and there's still damn near a quarter of the way to go. For now, let's just enjoy Ketel Marte for what he is—because right now he's a hell of a lot of fun.

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