Few late-round names matched the Ketel Marte's buzz for stolen bases last spring. He was coming off swiping 28 bags between Seattle and Triple-A Tacoma in 2015. His wheels remained locked, however, as is often the case when a young thief faces more resistance to running in the bigs. His walk rate (9.7 percent) from 2015 tanked, limiting his attempts. A low lineup spot doesn't always hinder speedsters in the American League - there's no pitcher due up to clog up the bases -- but Marte occupying the nine-hole most of the time did him few favors overall. Marte has put the ball on the ground more than half the time and has shown above-average contact ability, which open a door for batting-average upside along with 30-steal potential, which has not vanished. He's just 23, after all, and perhaps he'll hear near the top of a lineup in a more hitter-friendly home park after getting shipped to Arizona as part of the Taijuan Walker deal in November.
Marte went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in his first game back from an illness Saturday. The 23-year-old returned from a four-day absence and dropped his average below the Mendoza Line on the spring. Marte's struggling bat isn't helping his case for either of the two middle-infield spots, which currently belong to Chris Owings and Brandon Drury. If he is able to get on base closer to his 2015 clip with Seattle (.351 OBP), he could start to challenge Owings for the starting job at some point this season.
Marte was scratched from Wednesday's lineup due to illness, the Arizona Republic reports. All signs point to Marte beginning the season as a backup to Chris Owings and Brandon Drury at the two middle-infield spots. Through seven games this spring, Marte is 4-for-18 (.222) with a homer, four RBI and a 3:1 BB:K mark. If he can show signs of getting on base at a clip closer to his 2015 level in Seattle, Marte can become a threat to overtake Owings for the starting job at short at some point this season.
Marte was traded along with Taijuan Walker to the Diamondbacks as part of a five-player trade Wednesday night. Marte likely won't provide the Diamondbacks with flashy numbers at the plate, but he did steal double-digit bases in 119 games last season and hit .259/.287/.323. The Diamondbacks don't have any studs in the middle infield, so Marte could see some playing time with Jean Segura's (traded to Seattle) departure opening up second base in a more hitter-friendly environment. However, he doesn't own much power to take advantage of the situation.
Marte is not in the lineup for Sunday's game against the Astros. Marte has gone 0-for-6 over the last two games, so he'll get his first day off since September 8. With Marte out of the lineup, Shawn O'Malley will head to shortstop and hit ninth against Doug Fister and the Astros.
Marte is not in the lineup Thursday against the Rangers, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports. Marte is only hitting .208 over his past seven games, so he'll head to the bench for a day off. Shawn O'Malley will take over at shortstop for the series finale with Texas.