Reds’ Marte propels Glendale into AFL title game

PEORIA, Ariz. — Few Arizona Fall League prospects are more highly regarded than Noelvi Marte, though that didn’t translate into regular-season success on the developmental circuit. Yet he came through for the Glendale Desert Dogs when it mattered most.

After batting just .211/.321/.310 with three extra-base hits in 21 games, the No. 2 Reds prospect delivered a double and homer to help the Desert Dogs overcome a three-run deficit and defeat the Peoria Javelinas, 6-3, in the first play-in semifinal in the AFL’s 30-year history on Friday. Glendale will meet the Surprise Saguaros in the championship game Saturday at Scottsdale Stadium. First pitch is set for 8 p.m. ET, live on MLB Network and streaming on MLB.com.

“It would feel great to win the championship as a team,” Marte said via translator Annalee Ramirez. “We’ve been working really hard this season. If we win this, it would be my first ring. It would mean so much.”

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The Javelinas broke out on top with three runs in the top of the second inning before Marte responded in the bottom half with a 390-foot two-run homer to left-center off right-hander Bryan Woo, Seattle’s No. 15 prospect. First baseman Alex Isola (Twins) chased Woo with a game-tying 424-foot blast to lead off the fourth, and Marte slammed an opposite-field double later in the frame.

Marte opened the seventh inning with a seven-pitch walk and scored the go-ahead run on a single by No. 12 Twins prospect Austin Martin. Two batters later, fifth-ranked Dodgers prospect Andy Pages capped the scoring with a two-run double.

Right-hander Abner Uribe, Milwaukee’s No. 26 prospect, closed out the victory with two scoreless innings, working around two walks in the eighth. He struck out the final five batters he faced, including No. 18 Padres prospect Tirso Ornelas on a 98 mph fastball to end it.

“Today my one job was to be the designated hitter, and so I took that responsibility on,” said Marte, ranked No. 17 in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100. “I went out and focused on that. I was working on hitting the ball to the opposite field during batting practice and it worked out in the game.”

Noelvi Marte’s two-run blast
Marte thrived during the Minor League season, batting .279/.371/.458 with 19 homers and 23 steals in 115 games at High-A at age 20. He switched organizations in July, going from the Mariners to the Reds as the biggest prize in a four-prospect package for Luis Castillo.

That’s not the only change Marte has had to deal with. He played exclusively at shortstop in his first three pro seasons, but Cincinnati has an abundance of young talent at that position and wanted to expose him to third base in the AFL. In his first taste of the hot corner, he committed six errors in 21 games while also struggling at the plate.

“I’m learning that I need greater focus,” Marte said. “I’m learning that if I lose focus at any point in the game, it can be potentially devastating. So I’ll take a greater focus into next season.”