Reds top prospect Marte on callup: 'I felt like I was born again'

August 20th, 2023

CINCINNATI -- When was pulled in the eighth inning of Friday’s game with Triple-A Louisville, he thought he was in trouble because he didn’t run out a flyout. Instead, manager Pat Kelly called him over and told him after the game, “You know you can't do that in Cincinnati tomorrow, right?”

The Reds called up Marte, their No. 1 prospect and the No. 24 prospect overall, per MLB Pipeline, prior to Saturday night's game against the Blue Jays. Marte wasn’t in the starting lineup in Cincinnati's 4-3 loss due to an early-morning flight, but manager David Bell expects him to be the everyday third baseman as the Reds continue their postseason push.

“When I was told that I was making the big leagues, it felt like I was born again,” Marte said through interpreter Jorge Merlos. “We're back to zero now, and I'm hungry. I'm even hungrier now than I was before. And I'll keep fighting as hard as I can to stay up here.”

The Reds placed Kevin Newman on the 10-day injured list with a left oblique strain, which created a spot on the active roster for Marte.

Though he didn't start, Marte didn't have to wait long for his MLB debut. He entered in the ninth inning as a pinch-runner for Joey Votto, representing the tying run. Marte became the 20th rookie and seventh rookie hitter to appear for the Reds this season. He’s the sixth top 10 prospect from the Reds’ preseason list by MLB Pipeline to make the Majors.

Marte advanced to second on a single by Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and the two rookies executed a double steal to put runners on second and third with one out.

“In his first time ever in the big leagues being on base as the tying run, to have the courage to make a play like that is special,” Bell said after the game. “I think it's a sign of things to come. He wanted to be in the game.”

Marte, whom the Reds acquired at the 2022 Trade Deadline in a deal with the Mariners for pitcher Luis Castillo, slashed .280/.365/.455 in 39 games at Triple-A Louisville before his callup. The 21-year-old infielder has 11 home runs and 45 RBIs across Double-A, Triple-A and Rookie-level Arizona Complex League. There are few prospects with more raw power than Marte, according to MLB Pipeline, as he recorded 36 homers over the two seasons prior to '23.

Marte sped through the Reds’ system, going from High-A Dayton to the big leagues in just over a year.

“It's very impressive,” Bell said before Saturday's game. “We haven't seen Noelvi yet here, but the way he's developed in a short period of time led us to believe that he can handle it, or he wouldn't be here.”

From Marte's professional debut in 2019 until his trade to the Reds, he had only played shortstop at the Minor League level. He got third-base reps in the Arizona Fall League in '22, though, playing that position in all of his 21 games.

Marte played shortstop and third base with Double-A Chattanooga, but he played only third base with Louisville, the position he will primarily occupy in the Majors, according to Bell.

“At first I kind of felt uncomfortable at third base,” Marte said. “But as we started to play more, I felt like I was able to adjust very well and, honestly, [I'm] much more comfortable at third base.”

With second baseman Jonathan India on the injured list, Elly De La Cruz will play shortstop and Matt McLain will play second, while Spencer Steer -- who has started at third base in five of his past six games -- will play in the outfield.

“Every day will be different, and we can still move things around,” Bell said. “But for the most part, it would be Marte at third, and Spencer would move back to the outfield.”

Marte joins a group of rookies -- led by De La Cruz, McLain, Steer and Encarnacion-Strand -- who have positioned the Reds just outside of the Wild Card spot in the National League.

“Unbelievable how impressed I am with every single one of these guys,” Bell said after the game. “In not only their talent, but their instincts. The way they listen. Their humility of not thinking they have it all figured out. All those things are going to allow them to get better and better. But it's allowed them to get here, and no moment's too big.”