D-backs GM Hazen still anticipates occasionally using Ketel Marte in CF

Jan 27, 2020, 5:54 PM | Updated: Jan 28, 2020, 8:19 am
Ketel Marte #4 of the Arizona Diamondbacks catches a fly ball hit by Yan Gomes #10 of the Washingto...
Ketel Marte #4 of the Arizona Diamondbacks catches a fly ball hit by Yan Gomes #10 of the Washington Nationals (not pictured) in the second inning at Nationals Park on June 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

One way or the other, Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen was going to add another every-day name to his starting lineup, and he had some wiggle room as to which position a newcomer played thanks to the flexibility of his young superstar.

Ketel Marte spent the majority of last season playing in center field, a move from the infield where he primarily played second base for the D-backs in seasons prior.

Because of Marte’s versatility and infielder Eduardo Escobar’s as well, Hazen could have looked at either a center fielder, third baseman or second baseman to acquire.

It wound up being a center fielder in Starling Marte, who Arizona acquired in a trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday.

With that acquisition moving Ketel Marte back to second base, Hazen clarified his stance on where the D-backs preferred the 26-year-old All-Star to play in 2020, feeling like the better outcome was Marte on the dirt.

“We just believe that the play between he and (shortstop) Nick (Ahmed), the athleticism at second base, the range, the speed — if we could find a way to get a center fielder, which we felt like was the more challenging thing in the offseason, we just felt like we were that much better aligned in and out with him at second base,” Hazen said on a conference call Monday. “We feel like he’s a Gold Glove second baseman.”

But with that in mind, Hazen noted they weren’t leaning heavily in either direction, but they just had a slight edge to one outcome: the one they made happen.

“He was exceptional for us in center field last year,” Hazen said of Ketel Marte. “We feel like he and Nick in 2018 were an exceptional defensive pair. It wasn’t a big separation. It wasn’t a have-at-all cost situation. We were very willing to go in with either alignment. This was just the one we kind of preferred.”

Marte, though, isn’t going to exclusively be in the infield. Hazen sees some matchups where there could be two Martes in the outfield.

“I still think there will be opportunity, I’d imagine versus lefties,” he said. “(Manager) Torey (Lovullo) and I haven’t really talked about this too extensively yet, where Ketel could slide back out into center and Starling could slide over to a corner. I would still anticipate that alignment at times.

“I don’t necessarily know that that’s gonna be a straight rotation, in fact I would doubt it would be, but it does give us options to do those types of things.”

The lefties is a reference to left-handed hitter and left fielder David Peralta and left-handed hitter and presumed starting right fielder Kole Calhoun.

Calhoun sees only a 17-point drop in his batting average against lefties over his career while Peralta’s goes down significantly by 65 points, specifically with his OPS plummeting from .874 to .677.

Starling Marte also won two Gold Gloves in left field from 2015-16.

In terms of making things the best for Ketel, there isn’t much to having him play in either position in terms of the obvious.

“I’m not exactly sure that there’s a tangible difference between the two other than I just think there’s probably a lot more volume on the legs in the outfield,” Hazen said.

And despite the numbers suggesting Starling had his worst year defending in center, Hazen isn’t too worried about it.

“I think the defensive stuff year-over-year can be a little noisy at times,” he said. “We are aware of some of those things as a center fielder specifically.”

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