Poised for big things, Marte sees silver lining in offseason injury

February 22nd, 2024

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – Reds third baseman and top prospect, Noelvi Marte, tried to turn the lemon of an offseason injury into a lemonade of better preparation going forward.

Marte was doing what many young players from the Dominican Republic often do by playing winter ball in his home country. But he lasted only four games for the Cibao Gigantes before a strained right hamstring forced him to shut down from playing.

“It wasn’t frustrating, but I obviously wasn’t very happy about it," Marte said via translator Jorge Merlos. "I think about all the things that are negatives, there’s a positive to it. I learned so much. Maybe there are some things, whether it’s my diet or how I stretch before games, that I learned so much of how I need to prepare myself a little bit better so that doesn’t happen again.”

Marte, who is ranked No. 1 in the organization and No. 21 overall by MLB Pipeline, is trying to make the team out of camp after a strong 2023 big league debut.

Because of the injury, he has been on a modified running and hitting program that has him a little behind other players.

“The good news is it happened early on in that [winter] season, so I knew I had an opportunity to make a full recovery," Marte said. "Maybe I’ll miss a couple of spring games; I knew I would be back by the time the season started. I didn’t think it would really affect me.”

Reds manager David Bell has targeted Marte's debut in Cactus League games for March 2 vs. the Rockies, and the club expects him to be ready for Opening Day.

“I feel really good," Marte said. "I’m really happy with the work we’ve been able to do the past couple of weeks. We have a couple of days of treatment left to do, but we’ll be ready when the time comes to get out there.”

Here is more to know about Marte:

Age: 22

Hometown: Angelina Cotui, Dominican Republic

How he was acquired: Marte was the centerpiece of the July 29, 2022, trade that sent rotation ace Luis Castillo to the Mariners. Cincinnati also received shortstop prospect Edwin Arroyo (No. 67 overall) and pitchers Levi Stoudt and Andrew Moore.

Favorite player: Manny Machado

“I admire what his leadership is and how he’s able to go about his work and how he is among other players too," Marte said. "I kind of look up to how he’s been able to progress through his career.”

On looking forward to meeting Machado, perhaps this season:

“I’d obviously greet him respectfully. With a lot of admiration, I would say, 'Hi,'" Marte said.

2023 season: After beginning the year with Double-A Chattanooga, Marte debuted with the Reds as a pinch-runner on Aug. 19 vs. the Blue Jays and stole a base. His first start and first big league hit, a double, came on Aug. 20 against Toronto.

Marte, who started 31 of the Reds' final 39 games of the season, impressed quickly, batting .316 with an .822 OPS in 35 games. Despite having good power, he hit only three home runs.

“My mentality when I came up to the plate last year was, ‘I’m not here just to hit home runs or show off my power. I’m trying to get guys in that are in scoring position,’" Marte said. "I was trying to find ways to get the guys home and just help the team win any way possible.”

What the manager thinks: “He has plenty of power, but I see him as more of a line-drive hitter," Bell said. "The home runs are just going to come, especially with age, I think. We don’t want him to make any changes to his swing to create those homers because he has a really level line-drive approach.”

Notable: Marte finished the season with a 22-game on-base streak that started Aug. 30. Beginning Sept. 5, he also enjoyed a 16-game hitting streak through the end of the season. It was the longest rookie hitting streak for Cincinnati since Benny Zientara hit in 16 straight games from Sept. 10-22, 1946.

Also notable: Most of Marte's hitting streak occurred after his nose was broken by an errant pre-game warm-up throw from teammate Elly De La Cruz on Sept. 9. It caused Marte to miss two games.

Will we see more power in 2024? “It’s definitely there. It can explode," Marte said. "Maybe it will explode this year or next year. Who knows when it will explode? It’s all about the team first, no matter what.”