Marte fo­cused on his de­fense

The Arizona Republic - - SPORTS - NICK PIECORO

SAN FRAN­CISCO – On Thurs­day af­ter­noon, short­stop Ke­tel Marte made a lung­ing, back­handed grab of a D.J. LeMahieu ball. He spun and popped to his feet in one mo­tion, then fired the ball to first.

It was a flashy play made to look easy, the kind Marte is be­com­ing known for with the Diamondbacks. But it’s not the type that’s most rep­re­sen­ta­tive of his improvement at short­stop this sea­son.

High­light-reel plays have never been an is­sue for him. The rou­tine ones have been. But dur­ing his ten­ure as the Diamondbacks’ ev­ery­day short­stop for the past cou­ple of months, Marte has de­vel­oped into a re­li­able de­fender, some­one who is both sure-handed with his glove and ac­cu­rate with his arm.

“I’m just fo­cus­ing on those rou­tine ground balls,” Marte said. “I have good tal­ent, I know that, and I’m ath­letic. So I’m go­ing to make the fan­tas­tic plays, the div­ing catches. But, right now, I’m fo­cused on mak­ing the rou­tine plays. That’s what’s go­ing to help me play here for a long time.”

Marte’s ad­vanced met­rics don’t show him to be much more than an av­er­age de­fender at short­stop, but the improvement has been sig­nif­i­cant nev­er­the­less. A year ago, while play­ing for the Seat­tle Mariners, he had a mi­nus-10.3 UZR (ul­ti­mate zone rat­ing), rank­ing 18th out of 20 short­stops with at least 1,000 in­nings.

This year, Marte, with a 0.3 UZR, is a slightly pos­i­tive de­fender, though he still ranks just 20th out of 39 short­stops with 400 in­nings at the po­si­tion.

Still, it’s a def­i­nite improvement com­pared to what scouts were say­ing about Marte en­ter­ing the year. One said he was “more siz­zle than sub­stance” with the Mariners.

“We heard those same things, and we out­lined that in spring train­ing about be­ing con­sis­tent,” Diamondbacks man­ager Torey Lovullo said. “Ev­ery­day ma­jor-league base­ball play­ers are con­sis­tent day in and day out. They don’t have down moments. I just think that that is part of the mat­u­ra­tion process for him.

“Luck­ily for us, we got him here, and I think the player de­vel­op­ment staff got him in Triple-A and worked ex­tremely hard with him and out­lined a lot of thoughts about what it would take for him to be an ev­ery­day ma­jor-league player. He’s shown us that since he’s been here.”

Marte said he’s tried to be pre­pared on ev­ery pitch, telling him­self to ex­pect ev­ery ball to be hit his way. He also gave credit to in­field coach Tony Perezchica, who has been work­ing with him be­fore games since he was pro­moted from Triple-A Reno in June.

Marte also has seen his pro­duc­tion at the plate tick up from last sea­son, par­tic­u­larly with his walk rate, which has gone from 3.7 per­cent to 10.7 per­cent year to year.

“He’s done a great job, es­pe­cially given that we’re in a pen­nant chase,” Gen­eral Man­ager Mike Hazen said. “He’s han­dled the po­si­tion, locked it down af­ter we lost both guys (Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings) to in­jury in the mid­dle of the year.”

Hazen was asked if Marte is play­ing his way into a larger role for next sea­son.

“I would think so,” he said. “Look at what he’s done here of­fen­sively and de­fen­sively. We’re in a very for­tu­nate po­si­tion, I think, given the depth we have at the po­si­tion.”


The D-Backs’ Paul Gold­schmidt (44) high-fives J.D. Martinez and David Per­alta af­ter hit­ting a two-run home run in the first in­ning against the San Fran­cisco Giants at AT&T Park on Satur­day.

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