PEORIA, Ariz. — As Noelvi Marte walked toward the waiting group, unable to quite hide the aching pain in his bruised right shin, the product of a fouled off baseball during Saturday’s scrimmage game, he seemed to get younger with each uncomfortable step.

At a comfortable distance, perhaps the span from the chain-link backstop to the playing field, the 20-year-old fills the label of “grown-ass man” that Mike Cameron screamed following one of Marte’s prodigious homers during batting practice.

“How old are you!?!?” Cameron yelled.

Perhaps it’s the imposing figure that Marte cuts in a uniform. Signed at 16 out of the Dominican Republic as a gangly package of arms and legs listed generously at 6-1 and 180 pounds in July 2018, Marte admitted through interpreter Jose Umbria that he was only about 6-feet tall and is now almost 6-foot-3 and over 200 pounds. His long arms are now attached to a set of broad shoulders chiseled from the weight room, and his legs remain just as long with plenty of muscle added to them.

Are you bigger than Julio Rodriguez?

“No, oh no,” he said with a laugh.

Are you still growing?

“Yes,” he said with a bigger smile.

It’s also his feats on the field that make Marte seem older.

His maturity and stoic approach in the batter’s box. His ability to adjust quickly from pitch to pitch, whether it’s velocity or breaking balls. His plus swing speed that produces power to all fields. He seems to do something each day that leaves his teammates or Mariners staff shaking their heads.

“I still can’t believe he’s 20,” outfielder Marcus Wilson said. “He’s a physical specimen. He carries himself well. Better than a lot of other 20-year-olds that’s for damn sure.”

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But it’s in the face-to-face setting where Marte answered questions about himself, his development as a player and his goals for a very bright future, where he looks even younger than his age. The patch of unruly whiskers on his chin looks like it took months to grow while the rest of his face is still waiting to figure out how to grow it.

It serves as a reminder that the prospect is far from a finished product, having played a short summer season in the Dominican Summer League and is coming off his first full season of minor league baseball in the U.S., where he was the second youngest player in the Low-A West League and the youngest in the High-A West League.

“It was very exciting,” Marte said. “I felt like I was kind of prepared. But I had to adjust to it all and the culture to compete here.”  

As the starting shortstop for the Modesto Nuts, he posted a .271/.368/.463 slash line with 24 doubles, two triples, 17 homers, 69 RBI, 23 stolen bases, 58 walks and 106 strikeouts in 99 games and 478 plate appearances.

On Aug. 3 at Banner Island Ballpark, the home of the Stockton Ports, Marte had the best game of his career, ripping three homers on a night where he had four hits and drove in nine runs. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat, ripped a grand slam in the second inning and added solo homers in the fourth and sixth innings.

“The first one was on a changeup, the second one was a good fastball and the third one was a high pitch, I don’t know how I hit it,” he said.

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The three-homer game offered a teachable moment for him.

“The most helpful thing for me that day was I able to stay really focused and locked in,” he said. “Obviously, it was a great experience. From that day, I learned I have to be consistent and locked in on every single at-bat.”

Mariners coaches have raved about his easy power to right and right-center, which isn’t common for a young right-handed hitter.

“It’s my natural swing,” he said. “But I have to keep working on it. Sometimes I get pull happy, and that gets me in trouble. I have to remember that’s my approach to drive the ball to right field.”

The Mariners promoted Marte to High-A Everett, where he’ll likely start the 2022 season, for the final eight games of the season. He had nine hits, including four doubles.

It was in that lost 2020 season where Marte started to understand just how difficult the climb to the big leagues was going to be despite his natural gifts. After earning an invite to big league spring training in 2020 as a nonroster invite, the Mariners brought him in as one of the 60 players to participate in “summer camp” spring training and spend the shortened season at the alternate training site in Tacoma.

At 18 years old, he was taking infield with the MLB team and having to face big-league pitchers during intrasquad scrimmages. He looked overwhelmed at times. But it only left him more motivated.

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“I was 18 and I was facing big-league pitchers,” he said. “It made me more prepared seeing those guys. And it made me more physically and mentally prepared for last season.”

Marte has taken nearly all of his reps at shortstop during the Mariners minicamps and been the starting shortstop in the two scrimmages.

Given his physical growth and the possibility of adding another inch and more pounds to his frame with weight training, many opposing scouts and even some within the organization believe he will eventually transition to third base.

“He’s going to just get too big to be there,” one scout said.

He committed 30 errors in 63 games as a 17-year-old in the DSL and 30 errors in the 2021 season.

“Most of them are throwing,” he said.

But he believes he can still play there.

“It’s the position since I’ve been playing since I was little,” he said. “I’m trying to get better every single day.”

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Marte is embracing his daily sessions with infield guru Perry Hill.

“That’s huge for me,” he said. “I have to take advantage of time with him and learn every single thing I can from him.”

Marte worked alongside J.P. Crawford in 2020 and saw what it takes to be an MLB shortstop. It was Hill who helped Crawford refine his fundamentals and helped him become an elite defensive player.  

“He fields every ball with so much confidence,” Marte said of Crawford. “It’s every single time when he’s working, and it’s the same in the game. It was a different level.”