Image credit: Jakob Marsee (Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)
Every fall, the Arizona Fall League pushes a few less-heralded names into the collective consciousness of hardcore minor league baseball fans.
Sometimes these players are deserving talents who slipped under the radar of many public-facing prospect analysts, who go on to make impacts in the major leagues. Players like the Twins’ Edouard Julien in 2022 or Brendan Donovan in 2021.
The other side of the coin is the numerous players who showed out with great performances in the AFL who haven’t been able to replicate that magic elsewhere. Players like Nelson Velazquez, Greg Bird or Chris McGuiness all enjoyed standout performances in the Arizona Fall League, but have been unable to break through as average everyday regulars.
Our Top 100 Prospects ranking focuses on long-term MLB impact.
This leads us to today’s subject, the Padres’ Jakob Marsee. One of the top performers in the Arizona Fall League this year, Marsee has created significant buzz over the first four weeks of the season. Marsee has made three of our four Arizona Fall League Hot Sheets, cracking the top spot in Week One and Week Four. As of writing this, Marsee is hitting .420/.533/.754 with four home runs and 14 stolen bases over 18 games with Peoria.
This performance has been among the best in the Arizona Fall League in recent memory, ranking among the top 20 seasons in the league all time. After ranking 15th in the Padres system to end the season, Marsee looks to be pushing his way into the top 5-10 in the system with his end-of-season performance.
Lauded for his high makeup and outlier work ethic, Marsee has a well-rounded game. With an up-the-middle defensive profile, speed that translates to multiple parts of his game and advanced plate skills that rank among the best in the minor leagues, is Jakob Marsee a Top 100 prospect?
In order to examine this further, let’s see how Marsee compares to other Top 100 prospects across a variety of skills.
Marsee’s hit tool is arguably his best skill, as his overall contact rate, in-zone contact rate and chase rate all rank among the top five when comparing Marsee to Top 100 prospects. His combination of contact and approach is rare, even among Top 100 prospects, as Marsee combines outlier bat-to-ball skills with the most advanced approach of the top contact hitters on the current Top 100.
When we move to the top players in chase rate in the Top 100, we can see how outlier Marsee’s combination of contact and approach is. Among the top six chase rates on the Top 100, only Marsee has a contact rate above 80%. It’s not particularly close either, as the next closest contact rate in this grouping is six percentage points below Marsee’s, and the next closest in-zone contact rate is over four percentage points lower. As far as how Marsee compares to the average hit tool of a Top 100 hitter, he far exceeds the average contact rate of 74.7%, the in-zone contact rate of 83.4% and the chase rate of 24.8%. It’s clear to see that Marsee’s hit tool more than meets the threshold of Top 100 hitters.
While Marsee’s hit tool more than meets the standard of a Top 100 prospect, his underlying power data leaves something to be desired. Marsee hit 16 home runs in the regular season, and so far has hit another four in the Arizona Fall League. That’s solid over-the-fence power production, but when we look under the hood at Marsee’s exit velocity data, it tells a different story. Among Top 100 prospects with a minimum of 290 plate appearances this season, Marsee ranks dead last in average exit velocity as well as 90th percentile exit velocity. Within the group he is listed with below, he is at minimum two years older than the next closest player. Marsee’s 90th percentile exit velocity is so low that he’s nearly two mph below the second lowest 90th percentile exit velocity on the Top 100.
If Marsee’s EV data is so poor, how did he hit 20 home runs over the course of 2023? Simply put, Marsee has elite bat angles. Among Top 100 prospects, Marsee’s average launch angle of 20.4 degrees is the fourth highest on the list behind Austin Wells, Pete-Crow Armstrong and Kyle Manzardo. When we factor in sweet spot%—a metric that measures the percentage of a hitter’s batted balls that are between 10-30 degrees, or the optimal launch-angle range—Marsee ranks 15th among the 71 hitters on the Top 100. While Marsee lacks raw power, his barrel control is obvious as he shows an innate ability to backspin balls on his best contact. While this is effective in the minor leagues, it’s a question as to whether his home run hitting will translate in the major leagues against the world’s best pitching.
In conclusion, Marsee has a variety of Top 100–level skills, with a plus hit tool, advanced approach and on-base ability, an up-the-middle defensive profile and speed that allowed him to steal 46 bases in 2023. The problem is his raw power is so far below that of other Top 100 prospects it becomes clear that at the end of the day, this is a true separator. Marsee doesn’t just have below-average raw power for a Top 100 prospect, he has below-average raw power for just the average prospect his age.
While Marsee’s breakout has certainly put him onto the prospect radar, he’s still lurking outside the Top 100, and will have to prove that his elite barrel control can overcome the lack of strength in his game.