What Does Noelvi Marte’s Suspension Mean for the Reds?

Reds third baseman Noelvi Marte has been suspended 80 games for a PED violation. What does his loss mean for the Reds in 2024 and beyond?

GOODYEAR, ARIZONA - MARCH 06: Noelvi Marte #16 of the Cincinnati Reds signals to teammates between batters in the second inning during a spring training game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Goodyear Ballpark on March 06, 2024 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Aaron Doster/Getty Images)

Ever since they signed free agent Jeimer Candelario this offseason, there has been talk about the glut of infielders the Cincinnati Reds had on their roster. With top prospects Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain and Noelvi Marte having all debuted last year, the Reds infield was set to be one of the youngest and most exciting in the game.

Now, unfortunately, the Reds have been dealt a major blow as Marte is going to be sidelined for the first half of the season for a PED violation. Still technically a prospect, Marte is ranked No. 1 in the Reds system.

The 22-year-old debuted in the middle of August and hit .316/.366/.456, with a 120 wRC+ in 35 games down the stretch. He was now set to be the Reds starting third baseman for his first full season, but those plans will be put on hold until he serves an 80-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s PED policy.

How the Reds Will Fill the Void Left By Marte?

Luckily for the Reds, they have plenty of depth to be able to absorb the loss of Marte. Their starting infield without him will still look to be one of the best in the game despite this suspension.

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Elly De La Cruz is now entering his second big league season and is a candidate to break out in a big way as their starting shortstop. Matt McLain was the Reds best rookie last season, posting a 3.2 fWAR in just 89 games, where he hit .290/.357/.507, with 16 home runs and 14 stolen bases.

The addition of Candelario this offseason immediately plugs the hole left by Marte, as the 30-year-old can shift back over to third from first base, where he was originally expected to play most of this season. Candelario is coming off a career-year in 2023, where he hit .251/.336/.471, with 22 home runs and a 117 wRC+.

What this suspension really does is open playing time for both Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Jonathan India. Encarnacion-Strand was looking at being in a bit of a time-share with Candelario at first base, while trying to get at-bats at DH as well. Now he can take over as the starting first baseman with Candelario moving over to third.

Another former top prospect, Encarnacion-Strand hit .270/.328/.477, with 13 home runs in 63 games last year, while adding 20 additional home runs in Triple-A. If the 24-year-old can cut down on the strikeouts (28.6% K% in 2023) and draw more walks (5.8% BB%) he could become a feared slugger in the middle of the Reds lineup.

With Encarnacion-Strand set to play the field more, that leaves extra DH at-bats that India can soak up, as he tries to get his career on track after a few lackluster seasons.

After winning the NL Rookie of the Year back in 2021, India has seen his offensive production dip below league average in each of the last two seasons (96 wRC+ in 2022, 99 wRC+ in 2023). This, with the emergence of all the Reds top infield prospects, has led to plenty of trade speculation for India.

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Now the Reds are lucky they did not deal him, as India provides a really solid fallback option in wake of the Marte news. With McLain able to fill in defensively at third base and shortstop, India could see some more time at second base than expected this year as well.

What All of This Means for Noelvi Marte

While the Reds have the players to be able to deal with the loss of Marte, that does not soften this blow any when it comes to the ceiling of this team. There is a reason Marte was going to push so many talented players into less than everyday roles, and it is because of how talented he is.

Marte is a well-rounded player, who was going to impact the Reds in every facet of the game. Even though they have guys who are more than capable of stepping up, his loss will still be felt.

Moreover, this is a terrible hit to his development as a young player.

Having just made it up to the show at 22 years old, Marte needs everyday reps in the big leagues to develop into his All-Star potential. Now 2024 becomes somewhat of a lost year for his development, as there is no telling how is going to bounce back from this mid-season.

On one hand, he could hit the ground running just like he did when he made his debut last year. On the other, if all of those other players in the Reds lineup step up in his absence, are you just going to push them aside midseason when Marte is once again available?

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These things tend to have their way of working themselves out, but Marte went from a wide-open runway to be the everyday third baseman for the Cincinnati Reds for all of 2024, to a much murkier future as far as how he factors in this season.

Last year, we saw Fernando Tatis Jr. return off a PED suspension like nothing happened, as earned MVP votes and won the Platinum Glove. Tatis was an already established big league star though and even he had to move off his original position when coming off his suspension.

Time will tell if Marte remain the Reds third baseman of the future. This could prove to be a blip on the radar of his career in the long-run, but at this moment now, it is a major setback.