How Alec Marsh will factor into the KC Royals rotation

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Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman's 2024 KC Royals player projection series. Over the next few weeks, we'll be reviewing how various Royals performed last year and predicting how they might fare this season. Today, let's look at pitcher Alec Marsh.

Less than a year ago, Fangraphs' Eric Longenhagen described KC Royals prospect Alec Marsh as having "the stuff of a contender’s No. 4/5 starter" while waiting on his MLB chance. After 17 games in 2023, that ceiling remains apparent. But will Marsh get a chance to succeed or fail in the Royals rotation?

Marsh made his MLB debut against the vaunted Los Angeles Dodgers on June 30 at Kauffman Stadium. The four-inning outing was less than spectacular, as he gave up five earned runs with two home runs and four walks. Since then, he has pitched 10 1/3 innings with an impressive 10.24 K/9 to 4.48 BB/9 but has struggled with giving up 14 home runs. All told the Arizona State alum accrued an ugly 5.69 ERA, splitting time between being a true starter and a bulk man from the bullpen. His strikeout stuff remains potent, but the walks and home runs were his doom in 2023.

Marsh made his first 2024 spring training appearance against the Texas Rangers on Feb. 24. He continued to follow his volatile ways, stroking out two batters while walking another two. But he kept the reigning world champions off the board in two innings, only allowing one hit. Any spring training performance should be taken with a grain of salt, but Marsh's Saturday start should keep him in the MLB rotation conversation. What do FanGraphs' Depth Chart projections have in store for the righty?

How FanGraphs projects Alec Marsh will do this season

FanGraphs (Depth Charts version) predicts Marsh will only pitch in 33 innings in 2024, improving to a 4.89 ERA and 4.74 ERA, striking out 21.2% of batters and walking another 10.2%. His 11 predicted appearances only include five starts, similar to his 2023 workload in manager Matt Quatraro's pitching scheme.

How will Alec Marsh actually perform for the KC Royals?

Marsh made his MLB debut as a necessity, as the Royals struggled to field a healthy rotation. He has obvious holes in his game, but he remains confident in having a varied pitching arsenal and being a well-rounded starter. Those projections feel reliant upon the Royals' presumptive rotation being healthy across the whole season, a foolish approach to any MLB season.

Marsh enters the 2024 season as the presumed next-man-up from Triple-A Omaha if he doesn't break the Opening Day roster in the bullpen. Kansas City is stretching him out as a starter, and he will play accordingly for the Storm Chasers. If he can carry over his groundball rate from the minors to MLB competition, he will be a much more valuable starter. If that doesn't happen, he can still be a pot starter for the Royals. He has plenty of work to do, but the building blocks are all there for the 25-year-old Marsh.

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