Noelvi Marte’s skill is easy to see. There’s a reason why he’s so highly regarded on prospect lists and a quick scan of his stats or a few minutes of watching him take batting practice makes it easy to see. Couple that skill with his age and it really starts to get exciting for the Mariners and their fans.
“On most nights, he is both the youngest player and best player on the field,” Andy McKay, the Mariners’ director of player development said.
At 18, Marte was the youngest player at the Mariners’ alternate training site last season. At 19, he’s the youngest on the Low-A Modesto roster.
Of course, this is nothing new. The No. 83 overall prospect established himself as one of the best players on the international amateur market and signed with the Mariners as a 16-year-old for $1.55 million in July 2018 on the strength and potential of his bat.
The bat played immediately.
Marte hit .309 with nine homers and 54 RBIs over 65 games during his professional debut in the 2019 Dominican Summer League. He led the league in total bases and RBIs, then spent 2020 at the Mariners’ alternate training site. In 2021, it’s been more of the same as he’s hitting .281 with 11 homers through 60 games with Low-A Modesto.
“It’s going very well,” Marte said of his season. “I’m better than I was in my first year.”
While the numbers are impressive, there have been some rough stretches, but Marte has worked through those with a maturity that belies his age.
“I’ve definitely been impressed with the way he’s handled himself this season, the way he’s bounced back from tough games and stayed consistent,” Modesto manager Eric Farris said. “It’s definitely impressive for a player of that age. A lot of good things to look forward to.”
The mental fortitude needed to bounce back from tough games and handle adversity is something that was forged last year at the alternate training site. Going straight from the DSL to competing against advanced pitchers was a big ask and Marte, as most 18-year-olds would, struggled.
However, those struggles helped Marte progress and they’ve played a part in his success.
“It was something very important in my career,” Marte said. “It helped me prepare myself mentally for a long season.”
The adversity helped Marte refine his approach and learn what it would take to reach the Majors.
“He never backed down and continued to prepare and compete,” McKay said. “He has proven that he can handle adversity. We couldn’t be prouder of how he handled last summer and how he has responded in [Low-A].”
After a tough 2020, the Mariners No. 5 prospect has unleashed all that frustration on Low-A pitchers, having already set a career high for homers and playing with a visible passion and joy for the game.
Marte acknowledges his bat is his best tool and his power/speed combination immediately jumps out to evaluators.
“The hit tool and the raw power are usually the first things people notice when they watch him compete,” McKay said. “His ability to drive the baseball is very unique for his age.”
Defensively, Marte isn’t quite as advanced, but he’s made big strides since signing. He put on some muscle and as he continues to mature and fill out, he may need to move to third base. However, the Mariners believe Marte will be able to stick at shortstop and that’s something he wants as well.
“A lot,” Marte said when asked how much he’s improved defensively. “I know I have to work very hard if I want to stay at shortstop, so it’s very important to me.”
Marte has put in the work and the results are apparent to those who see him on a regular basis. He’s made noticeable strides with his internal clock and his commitment to the Mariners' throwing program has paid off.
“He works hard at it,” Farris said. “I definitely see improvement every time he gets a chance to work on things. He soaks it up, he’s a quick learner. He wants to get better defensively.”
Marte is still young and has played just 125 career games. However, the Mariners don’t feel that this is just a hot start or the product of a small sample size early in a career. The club believes in Marte’s development and expects him to become an impact player in the future.
“His skills make him stand out,” McKay said. “But the person and the character are what will allow him to excel in this game.”