Arizona State’s Alec Marsh could be a match for the Dodgers

PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 22: Pitcher Fernando Rodriguez #33 of the Oakland Athletics poses for a portrait during the spring training photo day at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on February 22, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 22: Pitcher Fernando Rodriguez #33 of the Oakland Athletics poses for a portrait during the spring training photo day at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on February 22, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The MLB draft is here. In just over a week, starting on June 3, high school and college hopefuls will wait to hear their names called and join (or not) their respective organizations.

In the first four rounds including compensatory selections, the Dodgers will have five opportunities to add new names to the farm system with the 25th, 31st, 78th, 102nd and 131st overall picks. With one of them, Arizona State pitcher Alec Marsh could be a great fit.

Marsh stared down the catcher, foot tucked up against the rubber on Opening Day for the Sun Devils when they played Notre Dame on what was a cold February night under the dark sky and bright lights in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Devils were coming off back to back seasons in which they finished with identically disappointing records. In the now draft-eligible junior’s freshman and sophomore years, ASU had played a combined 110 games of which they won just 46. Marsh, ASU’s heir to the Friday night throne, was hoping that he could be a focal point in the team’s change of fortune.

“You hate to lose but we did,” Marsh said of the disappointing first two seasons of his collegiate career in an interview back in March. “It sucks but if you work hard and try to change it, the change will happen and I knew I could be a part of it.”

With that attitude, Marsh did make changes. He helped lead his team to its best record since 2011 and Marsh, although his teammates would tell you it was always on the way, improved himself personally into a whole new pitcher.

In his first two seasons, his 4.86 ERA across 92.2 innings was nothing to admire. But, in 96.2 innings pitched this year alone, Marsh has worked his way to a 3.17 ERA with 92 punchouts to go along with it.

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The stark improvement is a testament to a work ethic that had players, coaches and media staff talking about Marsh since his 6.2 innings and 10 strikeouts opening day performance this season.

“He’s a show up first and leave last kind of guy,” ASU’s manager Tracy Smith said. “You always know you’re going to get 100 percent of Marsh.”

That became rather evident in its own right. Whether it was constantly looking for more production in very sharp outings or spending days where he wasn’t pitching in the bullpen to help the coaching staff as the stand in bullpen coach.

Marsh was the team’s 2019 leader. He did it from the mound but also from the clubhouse.

Intangibly that alone has vaulted him into the first four rounds of the upcoming draft and for his effort, he was rewarded. But, the sustainability of his status comes both with a good attitude as well as the stuff and stats to be there. He has those two.

Marsh works with four pitches and each one compliments the other. He works with a heavily used four-seam fastball and backs it up with a plus curveball, a hard slider and a changeup that doesn’t get a lot of attention.

He commands the strike zone well and knows how to get himself out of trouble and is rather impressively in-tune with the necessary type of out for the moment be it a groundball or a fastball upstairs for the strikeout.

The fastball has that classic wide velocity range found in most college arms at 91-95 and touches 96 miles per hour on occasion. The velocity is sustainable and stays with him deep into ballgames and through fatigue.

Since he used the four-seamer roughly 70 percent of the time for the majority of the season, the curveball and slider are the big conversations for the 6’2 right-hander as they aren’t relied on too heavily but they both have a ton of potential.

The slider is a powerful pitch with good lateral and horizontal cut. It sits in the mid to high 80’s and is Marsh’s second most used pitch. He goes to that for punchouts and has used it nicely in groundball situations as well. By usage and production, it would be easy to point at the slider and call it his best offspeed pitch but his curveball is far more dominant with far more potential.

Marsh’s curveball froze batter like it was nothing this year. The fastball was used to set up a high 70’s breaker that started behind right-handed hitters and dropped in the low-inside corner for a strike. That curveball was the focus pitch against top-ranked team Oregon State and Marsh went the distance in that game allowing one run on three hits while striking out nine and walking one.

That game was easily his best of the season. Against the nation’s third-ranked team at the time Marsh left the Beavers scratching for straws to hold onto and held the consensus first overall pick, Adley Rutschman, hitless in three at-bats.

As far as weaknesses go, Marsh needs to find more consistency around the strike zone to both keep his pitch count down and set counts up better for the use of his offspeed stuff. In 96.2 innings this season he walked over three batters per nine innings and averaged almost 16 pitches per inning pitched.

All things considered, Marsh would fit nicely into the Dodgers’ system. Last year they used their second-round pick on West Virginia righty Michael Grove who dealt with a history of injury and was drafted after missing his entire junior season. Marsh’s arsenal of pitches is similar to Grove’s except what Grove has in a changeup, Marsh has in a curveball.

Going through the system as a paired duo of college arms couldn’t hurt especially with the two just a year apart and Grove set back by injuries in his final campaign at WVU.

The Dodgers took Grove 68th overall and Marsh should be slightly below that. With the 78th overall pick this year and the 102nd after that, LA could look to bite a bit early with that late 70’s pick or wait it out for 102.

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Either way, Marsh had a message-sending campaign in 2019. His stuff was improved, his work ethic had a domino effect on his teammates and his staff and he could easily be worth the Dodgers selection in just a few days.