Any team sport has a 'next man up' mentality to differing degrees. Baseball arguably has it to the nth degree, as players cycle on and off a team's active roster. Injuries, underperformance, and miscellaneous transactions can force a player to The Show sooner rather than later. A Jordan Lyles illness pushed Alec Marsh into a starting role in late June, with mixed results throughout the 2023 season.
The KC Royals rushed Alec Marsh to The Show, with appropriate results.
The Royals drafted Marsh in the second round of the 2019 MLB Draft out of Arizona State. The 25-year-old started out the 2023 season as Kansas City's 14th-best prospect, according to MLB.com. He made the jump from Double-A NorthWest Arkansas to Triple-A Omaha midseason, totaling 14 starts before his promotion. He looked like the best available arm for the task in place of Lyles. He had three Triple-A starts with a 2.40 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 15 innings pitched.
Marsh made his MLB debut on June 30 against the Los Angeles Dodgers and the star-studded lineup shelled the rookie. He pitched four innings, walking for batters while allowing five earned runs and two home runs. He did strike out five batters in that span, furthering his reputation as a three-true-outcome pitcher. He will either walk a batter, strike them out, or allow a home run.
Those results held across Marsh's 17 appearances for the Kansas City Royals. He allowed a staggering 1.94 HR/9 in MLB but posted a decent 10.29 K/9 and 4.72 BB/9. Manager Matt Quatraro transitioned Marsh into a bulk pitcher role, coming in after an opener. He made nine appearances in that role, posting noticeable improvements in results. But, it was all not good enough to make Marsh a reliable MLB pitcher.
He posted a 3-9 record, 5.69 ERA, 5.70 FIP, and -.5 fWAR in his debut season. The results seem reasonable for a pitcher rushed to The Show before he was necessarily ready.
How does Alec Marsh's debut season grade out?
This is a tough one to grade, in this writer's opinion. All three of Marsh's wins came in September while posting marginal improvement in that month. Marsh did improve as the season went along, which is likely why the Royals kept him in the big leagues.
I do not like Marsh's outlook in the rotation. That just does not feel like the best role for him. Marsh will be competing for a 26-man roster role as a long reliever come spring training, barring a massive influx of pitching talent. His 2023 season was far from great though. As a whole, Marsh receives a D+.