I need to be honest with Mariners fans. While I know this season has been rough, I’m about to put a bit more salt on the wound. Noelvi Marte may not be what we thought he was. While his true big league impact is at least two years away (at the earliest), if you’re not concerned about his status as a top prospect in baseball, I would recommend that you look a little more into his numbers and I will do some of that in this column.
Let me explain why I’m down on Marte, and why others might be as well. The hype he had coming into pro baseball was sky-high. Given his inaugural affiliated ball season stateside was in the midst of the Covid pandemic, it obviously posed different challenges for him than others before. I expected a lot, and, to be fair, I was content with what I saw in 2021.
Marte fared very well in Modesto in 2021. He produced a solid .831 OPS and .368 OBP (all above the 2021 league average of .731 OPS and .340 OBP). Pretty much, as expected, Marte was what we thought he was. However, I’m one of those who thought we’d have gotten more. The pedigree and hype were at unbelievable highs. Again, I gave him a pass on the circumstances around his debut.
Now, this is where I am becoming a bit less optimistic about Marte. The 2022 season has seen him take more of a regression rather than an improvement. High-A Everett has proven to be quite the task for Marte. The OPS, which was at .831 in Modesto, is now settled at .680, which I’ll assure you, was far from the High-A average OPS in 2021. Here’s where I’m going to start my point of real concern for Marte. His BABIP has gone from .293 to .326, and while perhaps we might see some improvement, the OPS downfall seems to be more of an indicator of struggles than the unlucky BABIP numbers.
In 2022 at Everett, Marte’s overall slash line has slipped each month. This isn’t just some blip or adjustment period; we are talking drastic downfalls. Look at these eye-opening lines over the first three months of the 2022 season.
While Marte seemingly will be expected to adjust, these numbers aren’t improving as we’d like to see. Over the course of a season, we want to see improvement as opposed to regression. The art of making adjustments has seemingly been a challenge. This is what I find most concerning. We can make the case that BABIP numbers make for some unlucky at-bats, however, we need to pay attention when the slash lines are seeing such a drastic drop each month of his High-A tenure.
Noelvi Marte with the speed 💨
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) April 14, 2022
I’m not going to pretend I know exactly what is plaguing Marte. His K% is up from 22% in 2021 to 25% in 2022. The BB/K ratio has decreased from 0.55 to 0.42. These are obvious signs of a learning curve going into the upper minors; most prospects face these same issues. However, most top prospects (as Marte is) overcome that quickly (or quicker). In all actuality, Marte is making more of a case for a demotion back to Single-A Modesto than he is a promotion to Double-A Arkansas.
It’s worth noting, Marte isn’t safe by any means. I’m not talking about his floor or ceiling. I’m telling you that others in the Seattle system are coming for his SS spot. Edwin Arroyo is absolutely demolishing Single-A. While I’d not be surprised Arroyo gets moved to a 3B role in the future, what reason does Seattle have to do so? If Marte isn’t productive, might as well let Arroyo get time. Seattle could move Marte to an OF spot, or 2B. I’m not sure if that’s viable though.
Looking at the current big league roster, J.P. Crawford, Ty France (who can slide to 2B), and Abraham Toro are all infield options that could still play a role once Marte is ready for the majors (which is seemingly farther away now than it was to begin the season) and Kaden Polcovich still has enough potential, in my opinion, at the very least as a utility IF for the Mariners.
We know the talent Marte possesses. What we might want to consider is, “Is he really the future SS for Seattle?” I believe, while I may not have convinced you fully, you’re definitely considering that thought. Are we giving him a free pass? At some point, the band-aid needs to come off. The Top-15 rankings on prospect lists are going to be heavily adjusted against him. This is not exactly what we hope to see from your organization’s top prospect. Marte was ranked #7 overall in our last Overall Top 210 Prospects rankings (October 2021). Where will he wind up in our upcoming new overall ranks? Stay tuned?