Image credit: Brandon Marsh (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
MESA, Ariz. — Asked to give a scouting report of himself, Brandon Marsh deadpanned and went with “slap hitter.”
That might be true, but only if the one doing the slapping is The Rock, King Kong or The Incredible Hulk.
The Angels’ No. 3 prospect, whose build, hair and beard makes him a dead ringer for a lefthanded Jayson Werth, stole the show on Monday afternoon by slamming his first two home runs of the fall in his team’s loss to Glendale.
Neither of Marsh’s home runs were cheap. The first came in the sixth inning, facing lefthander Quintin Torres-Costa (Brewers).
“Lefty-lefty matchup and, to me, he was standing on the right side of the rubber, so he was already in my batter’s box and he had a little crossfire,” Marsh explained. “The first pitch was a heater, about 90-92, and on the sheet it said it was supposed to have a little sink and a little run, but it didn’t do any of that.
“He doubled up, came back with the same pitch and I just tried to put my ‘A’ swing on it.”
Marsh’s ‘A’ swing put the ball into the bullpen in right field at Sloan Park and cut Mesa’s deficit to two runs. Two innings later, Marsh came up again, this time against righthander Kodi Whitley (Cardinals).
“On the second one, he started me off with heater that had a little cut to it that threw me for a little loop, and so I was like, ‘OK, I’ve got see him up and away,” Marsh said. “Then he just left his slider a little up and I just met the ball at the plane and let baseball take care of itself.”
This time, the result was a loud line drive just to the left of dead center field that gave Mesa its final score and gave Marsh his first multi-home run game since May 1, 2018 with low Class A Burlington.
Like many players in the AFL, Marsh is making up for time lost to injuries during the season. A sprained ankle in June cost him a month and left him with 105 games for the season, with five of those coming in the Rookie-level Arizona League on a rehab assignment and the rest at Double-A Mobile.
So far, things are going quite well for the 21-year-old whom the Angels selected in the second round of the 2016 draft out of high school in Buford, Ga. His .391 average is second in the AFL, and his 1.127 OPS is tied for third with Salt River’s Royce Lewis (Twins).
He also showcased his strength on a national stage in the annual Fall Stars game, when he broke his bat on a 94 mph fastball running in on his hands and still managed to send the ball deep enough to center field to plate teammate Josh Lowe for the game’s final run.
More than his offense, though, Marsh displayed excellent range to both his right and left in Monday’s game with a pair of running catches in both gaps.
Of course, being a center fielder in the Angels’ organization is a bit problematic. It’s kind of like being a shortstop coming up with the Mariners or Yankees in the mid-1990s—no matter how talented you are, you’re simply not going to supplant the superstar in the big leagues.
So, what’s a guy like Marsh to do?
“I’ll play on the corners,” he said. “Anywhere to be able to be up there with the guys.”
If he puts together a few more games like he did on Monday, he’ll find his way there pretty quickly.
— Marsh wasn’t the only one dropping bombs on Monday. Jonathan India (Reds) cracked his third home run of the fall, and Devin Mann slammed his first as well. Both blasts came off reliever Will Vest (Tigers), who was hit particularly hard in his inning.
— Outfielder Blake Rutherford (White Sox) had a quietly impressive day as well. The 21-year-old had hits to both the opposite field and the pull side, stole a base and a made a made a spectacular diving catch in the left field.
— The velocity on display in the night game between Peoria and Surprise was impressive. At one point, the teams combined to roll out three lefthanders with fastballs that touched 97 mph. That group included Raymond Kerr (Mariners), Daniel Tillo (Royals) and Yoan Aybar (Red Sox). Blake Cederlind (Pirates), another southpaw, reached 98 mph earlier in the game as well.
— Surprise shortstop Luis Garcia (Nationals) continued an extremely impressive AFL campaign with a 1-for-4 night and a pair of nifty plays in the field in which he showed off soft hands and a strong arm.
— More on him later in the week, but Peoria starter Penn Murfee (Mariners) was a revelation. The low-slot righthander dotted a low-90s fastball to both sides of the plate with ease that belies his funky delivery. He coupled the heater with a sharp slider in the low 80s and finished an extremely impressive outing with eight strikeouts in four innings.