AquaSox shortstop Noelvi Marte, the top prospect in the Seattle Mariners’ system, batted .350 with 12 runs, three homers and 13 RBI in the past 11 games for Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

AquaSox shortstop Noelvi Marte, the top prospect in the Seattle Mariners’ system, batted .350 with 12 runs, three homers and 13 RBI in the past 11 games for Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Top-prospect Marte heating up in 2nd half for AquaSox

After some early struggles, the young shortstop batted .350 with three homers and 13 RBI in the past 11 games for Everett.

Don’t look now, but Noelvi Marte is heating up.

The Seattle Mariners’ top prospect had a big week last week, and both he and the organization are hoping it provides a springboard for the second half of the season.

”He’s in a very good spot,” Everett manager Eric Farris said of Marte. “He’s been able to make some adjustments and fortify his approach and it’s starting to pay off. He’s been very intentional with his preparation and it’s coming to fruition. He had a very good week, he’s getting his walks, he’s being more patient and he’s just been able to string good at-bats together. We try to tell the guys to concentrate on the process and swing at the right pitches. He’s starting to get on the good side of things with his at-bats and he’s getting the results he’s looking for.”

Marte, a 20-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic, is considered Seattle’s next big thing. He’s ranked by MLB.com as the Mariners’ No. 1 prospect and the eighth-best prospect in all of baseball. He’s been compared to Seattle’s rookie phenom Julio Rodriguez because of his combination of speed, power and athleticism.

Marte had a promising first season playing in the U.S. last year, as between Low-A Modesto and High-A Everett he batted .273 with 17 home runs and 71 RBI in 107 games. He returned to Everett this year with high expectations, but mostly treaded water at the plate during the first half of the season. On June 22 he was batting just .228 with six home runs and 23 RBI through 57 contests.

But during Everett’s series at Spokane two weeks ago Marte turned a corner. In the past 11 games he batted .350 with 12 runs, three homers and 13 RBI, he’s posted a quality 7/7 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and he’s kicked in 5-for-5 in stolen-base attempts. Perhaps the moment that best sums up his stretch came in last Friday’s 10-6 victory at Eugene, when as the second batter of the game he homered on the first pitch he saw, staking the Sox to a 2-0 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

For the season Marte is now batting .246 with nine homers and 35 RBI, and he’s pulled his OPS above .700 at .732.

”He handles (the weight of expectations) great,” Farris said. “Considering how great of a player he is and his tool set and ability, he had some struggles in the first half. But his mindset and temperament have been outstanding. You would never know he was having some struggles and that’s the sign of a good player: being able to shake things off, continue to compete and trust that your ability will take over, and eventually the results will come. Right now he’s getting them.”

Marte’s efforts helped the Sox split their six-game series against the Emeralds last week. Add in Monday’s Fourth of July 8-4 home loss against Vancouver — the holiday game pushed this week’s off day from Monday to Tuesday — and Everett finds itself 5-5 in the second half of the Northwest League season, 1.5 games behind the league-leading Vancouver Canadians.

Meanwhile, Mariners outfielder Kyle Lewis is expected to remain with the Sox for a handful of rehabilitation games. Lewis, who’s recovering from a concussion, joined the Sox for Monday’s game after switching from Triple-A Tacoma because of the Rainiers’ travel schedule. He served as the designated hitter Monday and went 0-for-2.

Stars of the week

Hitter: Andy Thomas. Marte had a huge week, but Thomas was just a smidge better. The 24-year-old catcher, selected by the Mariners in the fifth round of the 2021 draft, appeared in six games, batting .381 with three homers and five RBI. The combination of power and walks meant he led the team in OPS by a substantial margin at 1.315, and he was named the Northwest League Player of the Week. Farris also praised Thomas’ leadership qualities.

Pitcher: Peyton Alford. The 24-year-old left-hander, who was signed by the Mariners as an undrafted free agent in 2021, has been with the Sox less than a month since being demoted from Double-A Arkansas. However, he’s been nearly perfect with Everett, and last week he played a critical role in relief in two of the Sox’s victories. In total he threw 3.1 scoreless innings, allowing no hits, walking three and striking out six, and he earned the win in Thursday’s 4-3 victory. Alford is part of a bullpen that was tremendous during the series in Eugene, helping cover for some short outings by starters.

The week ahead

After two weeks on the road the Sox finally returned home this week for a six-game series against Vancouver — the series began Monday, with the final five games happening Wednesday through Sunday. Vancouver, an affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, is 6-3 in the second half, which has the Canadians in first place, a half-game ahead of Hillsboro. This is just the second time this season Everett and Vancouver have met, with the Canadians holding a 4-3 lead.

Most of Vancouver’s top prospects/performers are pitchers, led by 19-year-old left-hander Ricky Tiedemann. Rated as Toronto’s fourth-best prospect and 90th overall by MLB.com. Tiedemann joined the Canadians in May and in seven starts he’s compiled a 1.64 ERA with an impressive 47/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 33 innings. Offensively, Vancouver has been carried by shortstop Addison Barger, who leads the league in RBI with 52 and ranks second among qualifiers in OPS at .891.

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