Marsh steps in for superstars, gets 3 knocks as Halos finish sweep

2 years ago

ANAHEIM — With a chance at their first four-game sweep since September 2020, the Angels made not one but two big asks of Brandon Marsh on Thursday afternoon in the series finale against the Guardians.

Ask No. 1: Bat second in place of reigning American League MVP Shohei Ohtani, who had the day off. Never mind that it was Marsh’s first time higher than fifth in the starting lineup all season. Ask No. 2: Fill in for Mike Trout in center field, with the three-time MVP serving as designated hitter.

Marsh responded by going 3-for-4 with an RBI and a stolen base, accounting for half of the Angels’ hits in their 4-1 victory over the Guardians at Angel Stadium. It was the Angels’ first four-game sweep against Cleveland since July 28-30, 1997, and their first against Cleveland at home since May 13-16, 1982.

“He had a pretty complete game today, and that’s what he’s capable of doing,” said manager Joe Maddon.

Once the Angels’ No. 1 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, Marsh has put up some pretty impressive numbers in the first month of the season, with his performance Thursday elevating his season batting average to .340 and his OPS to .943. This is coming on the heels of an overall unremarkable debut season in 2021, in which he posted a slash line of .254/.317/.356 with two homers and an 85 OPS+ in 70 games.

Power hitting was never Marsh’s forte as a prospect, with his highest single-season homer total being 10. The basis of his game has always been contact and speed, both of which were on display Thursday, particularly with a couple of line-drive singles that left his bat at over 100 mph.

Already, Marsh is no stranger to three-hit games at the Major League level. He had five of those 2021, as well as a four-hit game. He came very close to racking up four hits on Thursday, with the only thing standing between him and that being a diving grab by Myles Straw in the first inning. The ball only had a .230 expected batting average, but Straw did have to cover 76 feet to get to it.

“I didn’t think that one was going to get down off the bat,” said Marsh. “A little disappointed seeing him coming up with it diving, but hats off to him. Good play.”

Maddon cited Marsh’s numbers with runners in scoring position as the key reason why he tends to bat lower in the order. Indeed, Marsh leads the Angels with 15 RBIs and ranks fourth in the AL in that category. His 176 weighted runs created plus is 13th in the AL amongst players with at least 50 plate appearances. But that .411 on-base percentage through 16 games makes it fun to consider the possibility of Marsh in a more permanent table-setter role — though, of course, the presences of Taylor Ward and Ohtani may eat into available opportunities.

“Nothing different,” said Marsh of his approach batting higher up in the lineup. “Just kind of stick to the planned routine, just try to get the barrel to the ball.”

On the other side of the ball, while Marsh has gotten most of his playing time in left field this season, he got plenty of reps in center last season with Trout out of commission due to a right calf strain. Statcast ranked his defense last year favorably, awarding him 2 outs above average in 70 games in center. There’s a bit of a difference between filling in capably for an unavailable Trout and filling in for an available Trout, though.

“Defensively, you can put him anywhere in the outfield, he’s going to do a good job,” said Maddon.

Overall, it’s performances like Thursday’s that show why Marsh was so highly thought of as a prospect, and why there’s still a lot of optimism that he can produce like that at the Major League level. 

“There’s a lot of trust right there,” said Maddon. “This kid is really good already, he’s going to keep getting better.”