Alec Marsh Experiences Breakthrough
Royals righthander Alec Marsh was doing everything he could to stay in shape during the early days of the pandemic, but he really wanted to be on the mound in competitive situations.
With the help and blessing of Paul Gibson, the Royals' director of pitching performance, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Marsh joined a team in the independent Constellation Energy League in Sugar Land, Texas.
The 22-year-old got into just three games but was able to take away information from his more experienced teammates.
“I just picked their brains, what they see in the game,” Marsh said. “They taught me a lot of stuff, kind (of) simple stuff, but it clicked with me.”
The most important development for the 2019 second-rounder from Arizona State was the additional fastball velocity he showed both in Texas and later in Royals' summer and fall programs. Marsh added around three ticks, touching 99 mph and sitting in the mid 90s.
Adding the extra zip was one of the goals Marsh set for himself coming into 2020, spending time on strength work in the gym.
“It’s more about moving efficiently with my body, learning how my body works, and learning where my strength comes from,” Marsh said.
It remains to be seen whether Marsh can hold the velocity over longer stints, but that’s not a concern for the Royals' development staff.
“I think he’s probably a comfortable 95-ish,” Gibson said, “and a guy who can grab the extra when he needs it.”
The other key goal for Marsh was to get more separation between his two breaking balls, with the extra velocity helping with that goal.
“My slider became so much harder because the velocity of my fastball ticked up,” Marsh said, “and then learning how to throw my curveball effectively kind of more 12-to-6. I really wanted them to be two different pitches.”
With four distinct pitches that all project as above-average or better, Marsh has the repertoire and makeup to remain a starter.
“Knowing how he prepares both physically and mentally, and how he completes, I see him as a starter,” Gibson said. “I can’t see it any other way.”
— Kelvin Gutierrez, 26, has seemingly been on the cusp of earning the Royals' starting third base job since being acquired from the Nationals midway through the 2018 season. But a couple of nagging injuries and the inability to show that he’s ready to hit in the big leagues has held back the native of the Dominican Republic, despite being at least an above-average defender at the hot corner.
Gutierrez may have turned the corner with a strong season in the Dominican League with Cibao during that team’s march to the championship round. He was one of the team's top hitters, batting .396/.492/.604 in 53 at-bats. His success was due at least in part to a swing adjustment made early in the winter.
“He had the tendency of pulling off and rolling over to the left side of the infield,” said Gigantes manager Luis Urueta. “We worked a little bit on his swing, but more than anything on trusting his hands more to drive the ball gap to gap. He ended up crushing balls all over the field, including opposite field homers.”
With 2020 starting third baseman Maikel Franco having been designated for assignment, the Royals starting job is wide open. If Gutierrez continues the strides he made in winter ball, that position could be his for the taking.