ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

D-backs’ Torey Lovullo expects a bounce-back season from Ketel Marte

Dec 27, 2022, 1:29 PM
Ketel Marte #4 of the Arizona Diamondbacks waits on deck during the first inning against the Housto...
Ketel Marte #4 of the Arizona Diamondbacks waits on deck during the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on September 28, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Ketel Marte had a rocky 2022 on the field after signing a five-year extension in spring training.

He started off the campaign slowly with a .467 OPS in April but heated up like the weather with a .965 OPS in 61 games from May 1 to July 22. He had a 16-game hitting streak in that span.

However, he dealt with a hamstring injury throughout the latter half of the year, which kept him at designated hitter for nearly a month from June 21-July 17.

His offense and ability to run the bases were affected and his final slash line was .240/.321/.407. That OPS is lower than any he’s had at any point as a D-back. He also missed 25 games.

Manager Torey Lovullo called Marte one of the most talented players he’s ever worked with on MLB Network Radio on Sirus XM during the Winter Meetings. He noted that he visited Marte in the Dominican Republic this offseason and said he expects to see a different version of the 2019 All-Star in 2023.

“From an offensive standpoint, we know there’s a lot more and when you have a bad year offensively, you seem to grind through the offseason a little differently,” Lovullo said. “I think we’ll see a different version of Ketel offensively next year.”

Lovullo admitted that health has been an issue with Marte in recent seasons. Marte missed 72 games in 2021, as he dealt with hamstring problems.

Lovullo said the health concerns have taken a toll on Marte’s defense at second base, as Marte had -6 defensive runs saved last season, the lowest of his career at second base by far, according to FanGraphs. He had 13 defensive runs saved in 2018, his first year with Arizona.

His sprint speed was in the 70th percentile in 2020 and it dropped to 43rd percentile last year, according to Baseball Savant.

With the shift rule changes next season — four players on the infield at minimum and at least two infielders on either side of second base — infielders will be tasked with covering more ground.

“There are issues of health. The lower half seems to break down from time to time,” Lovullo said. “I think he might get in protect mode a little bit from time to time and that has shown up a little bit defensively. The metrics just have not been good defensively. We’re talking about an elite athlete that has played an elite level of defense.

“With no over-shifting, he is going to have to cover some more ground. I had a chance to visit him in the DR. … I explained to him, ‘You just need to get stronger from the waist down, not more flexible, stronger. It’s gonna allow you to maintain that strength throughout the course of the season, it’s gonna allow you to cover the ground that we’ve seen.’”

Marte is entering his age 29 season.

With the D-backs locked in on taking strides from last year’s 74-win mark, they will lean on a bounce-back performance from their most valuable position player of the last four years.

Marte’s offseason has already looked a little different, as he has suited up for Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League for the first time since 2017-18. He will also play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic in March.

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D-backs’ Torey Lovullo expects a bounce-back season from Ketel Marte