Alec Marsh had a strong year. When you look at his bio page on the Arizona State website, they mention he has allowed fewer than 3 earned runs in 31 of his last 34 games, throws 63.1 percent of his pitches for strikes, and has thrown 16 quality starts in his 23 Friday night starts. They also mention hitters averages against him in a few specific counts, notably the 2-2 count where hitters are posting a .075 average with 30 strikeouts in 53 results posted. Marsh has been very good in the PAC-12 and has earned his ace title as a Sun Devil.
I watched his Regional start against Southern Miss from May 31. The on screen gun didn’t work for much of the first three innings but the announcers gave MPH readings at times. One thing was apparent to me very early, Marsh loves his big curve. And why shouldn’t he? The pitch has nose-to-toes 12-6 breaking action. At one point, he threw five in a row over the course of two batters. Marsh threw one to Matt Wallner who swung and missed while the pitch hit him in the foot. Wallner was selected 39th overall by the Twins so these two guys will probably match up again in the bigs in a few years. We’ll see if this happens again.
Going back to Marsh’s curve, he likes to throw it. The pitch has strong break and a lot of depth. The hitter’s don’t take good swings against it and Marsh throws it in every count. I do worry that he is too reliant on the pitch but it is probably a good enough pitch to get him to the majors as long as he keeps throwing it for strikes and then expanding the zone with it.
Marsh also throws a slider that has a different movement and break. The pitch is harder than the curve and moves 10:30 to 4:30 on a clock if you are looking from the hitter’s perspective.
Marsh used his change up one time in the first 4.0 innings. It had some armside run but didn’t seem to have much sink if any. But he doesn’t have to use the change when he can throw that 12-6 curve successfully to LHHs.
Marsh’s fastball topped out at 94 according to Ben MacDonald. Most mentions of the MPH were around 92. He was able to locate the fastball to both sides of the plate and seemed to favor using it at the top of the zone compared to the bottom of the zone. Personally, I would like to see more fastball usage.
In the top of the third inning, Marsh got into trouble giving up a groundball single through the 5/6 hole on a slider before walking the next hitter who had just pulled a homer foul. Marsh came back with a vengeance striking out two batters in a row on the curve before getting a fly out to Bishop in CF.
Scott Berry, head coach from Southern Miss, was interviewed between the fourth and fifth inning. One of the questions was about Marsh and an approach from here on out for Southern Miss. Berry said they need to lay off the breaking ball and they hope the heat gets to Marsh. He made mention to the 74 pitches Marsh had thrown through 4.0 innings and hoped Marsh would fatigue.
Marsh came out in the top of the fifth and his first two fastballs were 90 and 89. Marsh seems to use a 2-seam to get in on hitters before using the curve and slider combo to soften them up away. However, in this particular at bat, Marsh went 3-2 and gave up a solo home run to left on a fastball that was basically mid-thigh and not in enough. At this point, with a runner on second after another hard hit ball, Marsh broke out another change up at 84 with the LHH swinging through it. The pitch had some armside movement and seemed to be sinking. Marsh worked the fastball back up in the zone at this point followed by curve. Surprisingly, Marsh used the change again on the 3-2 pitch and it was blistered right at the first baseman turning into a hard hit out.
At this point, Marsh seemed to be battling his control because of fatigue. His curve was not locating like it had and his fastball was missing off the plate. Marsh’s body language started to show signs of frustration.
Against Wallner with runners on first and second, Marsh went curve in the dirt before a 1-0 change up. As a coach, I started wondering why they were breaking out his change in the fifth inning with all that fatigue. The pitch is probably decent but when a guy gets tired it tends to get up and become easy to hit. Especially when a guy has thrown only 1 in the first 74 pitches. ASU’s pitch calling guy went back to the change going 2-1. Going back to the curve, Marsh evened the count 2-2. The change ended up off the plate and up running the count full. Marsh has a habit it seems of wrapping/using the inside move when gets into trouble with a runner on second. He did it at least four times in this game. The next curve was up and Wallner hit a laser to right field that the right fielder misplayed allowing the Golden Eagles to take the lead. Again, I question why ASU’s pitch caller used Marsh’s third pitch three times in one of the most important at bats of the game.
At 98 pitches and still in trouble, Marsh’s fastball came in at 89 mph. At this point he is gassed and a change should probably be made. Even with the frustration and fatigue, Marsh worked through the next hitter striking him out on a fastball in after a curve away. Marsh spiked the next pitch, a curve, and a run scored. Again, I don’t think he should be in the game at this point because he is obviously less than his best. But you know, he has probably earned it over the last season and a half. The next pitch was a fastball in the dirt moving the runner another 90 feet. After walking the guy, the Sun Devils made a change.
This wasn’t his best start but there are a few good things to take away from this start. First, Marsh has a really good curve that he likes to use. It is a swing and miss pitch. Second he can locate his fastball on both sides of the plate. I feel Marsh needs to use the fastball more, especially early in starts, as he can get quicker outs with it and not run into 100 pitches in the 5th inning. Third, Marsh has a slider and a change that we didn’t see very much of but I hope in pro ball they use those pitches a little more. If he is going to stick as a starter in the minors, he needs to be able to use all his pitches effectively.
It’s tough to gauge a guy after one start that isn’t his best. Marsh will probably breeze through Burlington or Idaho Falls and on to Lexington. He should breeze through there as well as long as he is locating his fastball consistently. I would imagine that Wilmington will be the first tough situations he will consistently see. I think he and Gambrell are very similar in ranking and I don’t know where they both fit. Baseball America had them 1 spot apart at 101 and 102. The Royals added good starting pitching depth with those two guys and both these guys have could be MLB starters.
Photo Credits: ASU Baseball