About a year later than anyone really expected it to happen, the Arizona Diamondbacks have called it quits on trying to contend with the likes of the Dodgers & Rockies in the NL West. The team shipped their perennial MVP candidate to the in-contention Cardinals, for a return of solid future assets. Likely to join Paul Goldschmidt on the list of ex-Arizona All-Stars soon are Zach Grienke & Robbie Ray. This is a team looking to build a roster that’ll assume the mantle of NL West dominance once the Dodgers’ era ends.
It’s certainly an uphill climb for the franchise, they’re already several years behind the Padres’ rebuilding efforts, and the Rockies’ have already secured their future by locking down Nolan Arenado for the next 8 years at least. So the D-Backs will need to see one of their youngsters take a drastic uptick in there development in 2019, to at least provide a glimmer of hope to a fan-base that’s likely feeling disenfranchised by the sharp turn from ceiling to cellar.
I have my eye on a few young talents scattered around the Arizona club house. I love the potential of Luke Weaver, a young pitcher who was part of the return for Goldschmidt. He’ll start the season already a lock for mid-rotation status, and could prove to be the next-big D-Backs arm. I’m also big on the best beard in baseball, Archie Bradley (apologies to Charlie Blackmon). The 5th-year setup man had a pseudo-breakout campaign back in 2017 but sputtered last season because of shocking bullpen mismanagement by the otherwise fantastic Torey Lovullo. If he can reclaim that form from 2017 while being used properly, Bradley can cement himself as one of baseball’s elite bullpen arms.
My choice for break out star of 2019 in the desert is Ketel Marte though. A rather understated player through the first few years of his big league career, he’s poised for a much grander role in the season to come than he’s ever had before. Last year, at age 24, Marte posted career-highs in Hits, Runs, Batting Average, Slugging Percentage, and so many other categories. You could attribute this to him playing in more games than he ever has before, but I think it’s more indicative of his improved approach at the plate. In 2018 Marte posted a strikingly good strikeout to walk ratio, and his drastic increase in extra-base hits means that not only does he have an improved sense of the strike zone, but when he gets a hit-table pitch he’s making the most of it.
Marte’s glove-work as a middle infielder has always been solid, but in 2019 he’ll be transitioning to center field. Perhaps not the easiest transition for a lifelong infielder to make, Marte’s top tier athleticism will surely help him shine in his new home in the outfield. In fact, many experts indicate that this might prove to be the best spot for a player with his elite speed and strong arm. If it matters to you at all, his spring training reps out there have held up to that analysis.
In 2019, Major League Baseball is sorely devoid of the prototypical leadoff man of yesteryear. Ketel Marte sitting atop the DBacks order will be something of a welcome site for baseball traditionalists, seeking a sparkplug to open up games with.