It was a tough overall year to be a starting pitcher in the Kansas City Royals organization. There were only a few that performed well for the entire season and one exceeded expectations. But was that performance enough to open the eyes of those who make the decisions?
Lefty Justin Marks has been a relative unknown since coming over from Oakland in the David DeJesus deal. However, 2012 was his breakout season (despite a solid 2011 in High-A).
It started in Double-A, where NW Arkansas pitching was battered all season long. Marks was one of only three starters (Jake Odorizzi and Michael Mariot were the others, but Mariot was a reliever for the bulk of the season) to have an ERA under 4.00. He was just 3-5 in 17 starts, but had a 3.80 ERA over 85.1 innings. He struck out 73, walked 38, and had a 1.37 WHIP. He made one start at the end of the season in Triple-A which was disastrous.
The walks per nine innings was high in Double-A (four), but he allowed less than a homerun a game in a hitter’s league. He also left about 74% of base runners on base.
Marks then traveled to Surprise to play in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. The Royals did not send any elite prospects to the league, but Marks became one of the AFL’s top starters. He was the only Royal to be named to the AFL’s top prospect list following the season. In the AFL, he was 5-1 with a 2.58 ERA over seven starts. Over 24 innings, he walked just five while striking out 22.
With Surprise, he only had two starts where he allowed more than an earned run, one of those being his last. Marks did not walk a batter over his final four starts. In his first two starts, he only allowed one hit and that came in his second start.
The 2012 season culminated with Marks being added to the Royals 40-man roster.
I thought he had a shot, though a long one, to crack the Royals rotation in 2013. Then the team acquired James Shields and Wade Davis. Now, he will be lumped in with a large group competing for that one spot in the rotation this spring. Unless, the Royals decide to try him out as a left-handed reliever. The only one guaranteed a spot is Tim Collins, but there are also guys like Bruce Chen, Will Smith, and Everett Teaford fighting for that second spot in the bullpen.
Injuries always occur, so there is still hope for Marks. Putting together a solid 2013 in Triple-A should at least garner him a September callup. Or a shot at a 2014 roster spot.