Ketel Marte is a name to remember. The switch-hitting middle infielder currently plays in the Seattle Mariners' organization, having signed as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2010.
Marte has moved extremely quickly through the Minor League levels. Now only 20 years old, he began his career in 2011 playing in the Dominican Summer League. Marte had only 11 errors at shortstop and none at second base in 282 overall chances. He hit .259 with five doubles, three triples and two home runs among his 57 hits. Marte was a raw 17-year-old with outstanding upside. He struck out only 35 times in 252 plate appearances.
The following year, Marte played at both Class A Short-Season Everett and Class A Clinton. He made the best of his time at these higher classifications by again making contact and playing solid defense. Once again, Marte struck out only 38 times in 286 trips to the plate. A pattern was emerging. Marte could put the ball in play, run well and make things happen on offense. And he continues to show slick fielding with good range.
Last year, only Marte's third in professional baseball, he began at Clinton but was promoted to Class A Advanced High Desert. So in parts of three seasons, he made it through multiple classifications. Marte hit .256 in 19 games at High Desert.
This season, Marte was promoted once again. He began the year at Double-A Jackson. That's where Marte was playing when I scouted him as a member of the Double-A Southern League All-Star team that played its All-Star Game in Chattanooga, Tenn. That's quite an accomplishment for a 20-year-old player. Marte has always been young for his league, and this year, he's an All-Star.
Marte is No. 14 on the Mariners' Top 20 Prospect List. At 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, he would benefit by adding some strength and weight to his frame.
Marte came to the All-Star Game after producing a 13-game hitting streak during the first half of the season. He had four hitting streaks that lasted seven or more games. Marte was tied for third for the most at-bats in the league and he was fourth in hits with 77 at the time of the game. He got two hits in four plate appearances in the All-Star Game.
Statistically a better right-handed hitter, Marte's contact from his first couple years has continued. He has shown that he can put the bat on the ball, even as the pitching he faces has improved. Marte's stroke is short and he's very quick through the ball. While he hasn't hit the ball over the fence with any regularity in his career, his bat speed and swing plane have resulted in gap doubles and triples, aided by his speed.
Marte has baserunning ability and instincts that will allow him to continue to take advantage of that speed. He will consistently be a threat to steal bases, with that part of his game only continuing to improve with time and repetition.
What I really appreciated about Marte's game in Chattanooga was his outstanding defense. He made easy plays look really easy. And Marte made some very difficult plays look easy as well. He showed excellent range with first-step quickness to both sides and coming in on the ball. Marte has the soft hands and agility to play shortstop.
I'd like to see a bit more arm strength, but Marte gets to balls quickly and can take care of business at shortstop. He might be even better playing second base. Regardless of which middle-infield position he plays, Marte is an advanced fielder.
The Mariners' organization is loaded with high-quality middle infielders, including second baseman Robinson Cano, the foundation of their future. Consequently, the shortstop position is likely to be more available to Marte if he remains with Seattle. Sure-handed, slick-fielding middle infielders are always in demand.
Marte's meteoric rise through the Minor Leagues is impressive. Now he must refine his game as his power continues to develop and he gets bigger and stronger.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.