Alec Marsh did some things over the extended break and offseason to make him a better pitcher. I want to check those out first hand but have been unable to get to a game in which he has started so far this season, so I’m using the film room. Marsh won the first ever Double-A Central division Pitcher of the Week honors for his start on May 8. So I decided I was going to watch that film and get a feel for what he did that made him successful.
Marsh made the Saturday start against the Arkansas Travelers. The team is an affiliate of the Seattle Mariners but is not loaded with their top talent. However, the team is a veteran team of older minor leaguers who have experience. This was a good test against an older club that doesn’t have the flashy stars, but guys who have been able to hang around getting the job done and make their way forward in professional baseball.
Let’s be frank. Marsh won the Pitcher of the Week award because he didn’t give up a hit in 5.0 innings and had nine strikeouts. However, he did allow four baserunners in his five innings even though he didn’t give up a hit. This suggests he was fighting with his control and command and after watching the film, there was an early stretch where he did just that. Then he retired seven hitters in a row and looked really good doing it. Marsh struck out five of the last six guys he faced. He finished strong and probably had another positive inning in the tank, but the organization shut him down at 85 pitches, which seems like a good early season number. In the middle of June, I hope to see the organization allow their pitchers to push to the 100 pitch mark, but we’ll see what the Royals do after a break where most guys haven’t thrown 100 pitches in approximately 18 months.
The first hitter was just blown away. Three pitches, three strikes, three fastballs, two swings and misses, and upper 90’s velocity. The scoreboard said 101 mph on the first pitch of the game, but it was a solid +4 all night.
After throwing the first six pitches for strikes, Marsh hit the second batter of the night in a 2-2 count. From there, he allowed a stolen base before walking Rizzo. Marsh then got out of the situation with a 4-6-3 double play.
Marsh alternates between a slide step and leg lift with runners on first base. When he lifts his leg, he is not very quick, especially when he throws the breaking ball. The pitch on which Wrenn stole second base I timed at 1.72 on my stopwatch. Typically, a pitcher wants to be 1.3 or less to give his catcher the best chance possible. I did not see any pattern of which pitch Marsh threw with his leg lift and slide step.
Marsh’s fastball looked solid. He threw a four-seam and a two-seam from their movement profile. The four-seam had good carry and stayed straight while the two-seam had normal movement to the arm side. It also looked like Marsh was throwing a cut fastball that had slight glove side movement. When I go to another Naturals game, I will ask him if I can get the opportunity. The fastball variations all had good velocity and resulted in seven swings and misses. Like most Royals pitchers, Marsh did a good job of elevating the fastball ahead in the count resulting in several swings and misses.
Marsh threw two variations of a breaking ball. The first was a curve that had a big break coming in 11 to 5 from behind the plate. The pitch was slower than the slider allowing it to move more and a hitter to be more in front. Marsh threw it more as a get-me-over strike type of pitch, but he did also expand the zone with it down and attempted a few backdoor curves against LHHs.
Marsh’s slider had a tight glove side break that was more vertical than horizontal. Marsh was able to throw this pitch hard and looked like it started in the fastball tunnel. The pitch broke down below the zone most of the time resulting in contact off the end of the bat or a swing and miss. He seemed to like throwing this more than the curve and was able to throw it for a strike and chase pitch.
Marsh also threw a solid change up. The pitch has arm side movement and tunnels with the fastball. He definitely turns the pitch over well as it has good sink at the end. Marsh likes to throw the change to the LHHs and got a few swings and misses against the five LHHs the Travelers ran out there. This is an important thing to note. Marsh faced 10 LHHs striking out 4, walking 2, induced 2 ground outs, and 2 fly outs. He can get hitters out from both sides of the plate which is a good sign for his ability to start on the mound in the future.
Marsh put himself in trouble win the first with a HBP and BB, but hit the home run by getting the double play. From that point on, he was in control striking out 8 of the 14 hitters and walking 2. From just looking at one start, you can’t get an overall idea of whether or not Marsh is a “quick starter”. I hope he doesn’t have an issue getting settled in and can do that quicker in the future. It’s not a concern by any means at this point, but something to have an awareness of going forward.
Marsh exhibited the ability to develop as a starter and should be mentioned in the top group of RHPs prospects in the organization. He threw all his pitches for strikes an showed a good mix in this game.
Photo from azfamily.com taken by Hilary Scheinuk.