Tacoma Rainiers shortstop Ketel Marte represents a true rarity in Seattle Mariners history: He has a chance to be a homegrown, major league switch-hitting middle infielder.
The Mariners signed Marte shortly after his 16th birthday, after scouts saw him in his hometown of Nizao, Dominican Republic.
The switch-hitting shortstop has quickly risen through the farm system, opening the 2015 season as the youngest player on the Triple-A Tacoma roster.
Now 21 years old, Marte is on the cusp of the major leagues. He’s considered one of the top prospects in the Mariners’ organization.
Should he get called up, he’ll become just the third switch-hitting middle infielder developed by the Mariners to reach Seattle in 25 years. The Mariners previous successes were Omar Vizquel (reached Seattle in 1989) and Nick Franklin (2013). Carlos Guillen was another switch-hitting infielder, but he was developed by the Houston Astros and traded to Seattle.
Marte has been switch-hitting all of his professional career.
“His natural side is right-handed,” said Rainiers hitting coach Cory Snyder. “He’s good both ways, but I think his hands work a little better from the right side.”
After 16 games this season, Marte is hitting .281 with six RBIs. He’s batting .409 (9 for 22) right-handed and .214 (9 for 42) left-handed.
In 2014 at Double-A Jackson, Marte hit for a higher average left-handed. He finished at .305 in 374 at-bats as a lefty, while hitting .290 from the right side.
“It’s hard as a switch hitter, because it’s extra time,” Snyder says. “You’ve got to put in the time on both sides; you can’t just do one side or the other.”
IOWA CUBS IN LULL BETWEEN PROSPECTS
At the start of the Pacific Coast League season, the Iowa Cubs were considered to be the most prospect-laden team in the league. They had Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Javier Baez in the regular lineup.
Just two weeks into the season, they have none of them.
Bryant didn’t make it to Iowa’s home opener before being called up by Chicago. Russell got the call just a few days later, and Baez has been away from the team on a family matter.
But more prospects are coming. Chicago’s farm system was lauded prior to the season, and they have a trio of hitting prospects at Double-A Tennessee who will soon fill the void in Iowa.
The Mariners’ Double-A affiliate saw it firsthand this week, when Tennessee had first-round draft picks Albert Almora (2012), Kyle Schwarber (2014) and Dan Vogelbach (2011) hitting three-four-five in the lineup during a four-game series split in Jackson, Tennessee.