Just as the trade deadline was approaching last year, the Phillies sent sent catching prospect Logan O’Hoppe to the Angels in order to acquire center fielder Brandon Marsh. The latter was one of the top prospects in the league a few years ago but was relatively overshadowed on an Angels team that had stars like Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Marsh was perhaps best known for trying to make his head suit his surname, as he didn’t do too much to stand out with the bat.
Making his debut in 2021, he got into 70 games and took 260 trips to the plate. He struck out in 35% of those, walked in 7.7% of them and hit just a pair of home runs. He finished that year with a .254/.317/.356 batting line and an 85 wRC+, indicating he was 15% below league average. Up until the trade last year, it was more of the same. In 323 plate appearances for the Halos prior to the deal, he struck out 36.2% of the time, walked at a 6.8% clip and slashed .226/.284/.353 for a 79 wRC+.
The move to the Phillies seems to have been a turning point, however. His walk rate actually dropped to 4.3% after coming to Philadelphia last year, but his strikeout also dipped to 29.7%. That was still much higher than league average but a noticeable improvement from his own track record. That led to a .288/.319/.455 batting line and 114 wRC+. Here in 2023, he’s off to a tremendous .314/.402/.578 start and a 164 wRC+.
There’s one big caveat to throw out here, as Marsh currently has a .444 batting average on balls in play that no hitter could sustain. Last year’s league leader, for instance, was Paul Goldschmidt and his .368 mark. Once Marsh sees his BABIP figure regress, his overall numbers won’t be quite so gaudy. But digging under the hood reveals there’s still plenty of things to be encouraged by. He’s striking out at a 29.9% clip that is definitely still high but more manageable than the roughly 35% clip he was at previously. He’s also walking at an amazing 12% clip, well above this year’s 8.8% league average. Considering how rarely he took free passes before, that’s an excellent sign.
The batted ball metrics also shed some positive light on the better results, as basically everything has improved relative to last year. His barrel rate is up from 7.4% to 10.4%. His average exit velocity was 89.2 mph last year but is at 92 mph in 2023. His hard hit rate has gone from 38.2% to 47.8%. It’s still a fairly small sample of 117 plate appearances but he’s striking out less, walking more, hitting the ball harder and doing so more often. And it doesn’t seem to have come out of nowhere.
Back in October, when the Phillies were in the World Series, Marsh and hitting coach Kevin Long spoke to Sam Blum of The Athletic about the changes that had been made to his swing. “I devised a game plan on what I was going to do with his swing,” Long said. “And the mechanics of his swing. I always start by getting guys closer to the hitting position than further away. So we spread him out. We got him into his legs. It worked.”
All of these offensive improvements are a great coup since Marsh was already a valuable contributor as a glove-first center fielder. Defensive Runs Saved doesn’t seem to like him in center much, putting him slightly below average in each of his three seasons thus far. Ultimate Zone Rating has him in the positive range, though, and Outs Above Average has him at +5 through 1,251 innings. Marsh is also ranked in the 88th percentile in terms of sprint speed and has 17 stolen bases in his career thus far.
With all of those traits, FanGraphs calculated him as having produced 2.4 wins above replacement in 204 games over 2021 and 2022, even while hitting at a subpar rate. Now with much better offense this year, he’s already at 1.3 fWAR in just 33 games, more than halfway to his previous total in a fraction of the time. As mentioned earlier, he’s due for a bit of regression, but there are reasons to suspect he’ll eventually settle somewhere that’s much better than his previous work.
The 25-year-old came into this year with one year and 78 days of service time, meaning he won’t qualify for arbitration until after 2024 and isn’t slated for free agency until after 2027. For a Phillies team that has spent big on players including Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and Nick Castellanos, and would also like to get Aaron Nola signed to an extension, getting big value out of an overlooked player like Marsh is an important victory.
That comment about his name killed me
Image how much better Ohtani and Trout would be if they got out of the Angels system.
Lol. That makes no sense, they are both great. How much better could they get if they put another uniform on.
Marsh put on another jersey and is significantly better so I’m certain Ohtani and Trout would be even better.
Sometimes (struggling) players just need a change of scenery. Clearly, Trout and Ohtani are doing okay.
I like old york’s logic. Tyler Anderson last year was an AS and in Anaheim he’s been worth negative bwar through 6 games this year.
Yeah because Thor has gotten so much better since he went from the Angels to the Dodgers.
He spent like half a season in the Angels system. Thor’s problem is he’s a product of the failed Mets system.
whatever fits your narrative, right?
@pohle The narrative was that any player that leaves the Angels gets better, which simply isn’t true. There are many many players who got worse or at least not better after they left. This can be said of pretty much every team.
Backup Catcher to the Backup Catcher
Actually, Thor had a brief stop in Philly last year before signing with LA this year. He was sorta OK with the Phillies, but it looks like the Dodgers rep as a place to go to get righted might take a hit with Thor. Hey, no one bats 1.000!
Good luck to Marsh on hopefully being close to these first 5/6 weeks. He just might turn out to be an above average CF after all.
I still like O’Hoppe’s ceiling, injury or not a lot more, but I totally understand it for the Phillies. They needed a CF badly and already have a premier catcher locked up. End of day, good for all!
Just watched Marshy hit a bases clearing double!
Bohm did not score, only 2 run dbl
Miss the Caveman.
Captain Caveman, another DD masterclass.
It is so refreshingly wonderful to see the Phils under DD & Co. not only managing to make intelligent player acquisitions, but also to see them exhibit genuine player development far more often than not. Trades; change of scenery guys; depth moves and on the farm…
…this has not been a hallmark of the organization in, like, almost forever.
Agree hopefully Fuld stays when DD takes his talents to Nashville…..
The day the trade was made, I and other wrote once Kevin Long went to work with him, Marsh would start hitting.
Even the article quoted Kevin Long.
Yet most of the comments here talk about a “change of scenery” or how bad the Angels coaching is or mafic inextricably took place.
Kevin Long is a master hitting coach – the best in MLB. He has decades of experience and puts in the time year-round. DD’s genius was in hiring him and giving him all the tools he needs to do the job.
Way to early to be blowing that much smoke up this Long’s guys Butt. Give Marsh some love. Lol
I’ll bring you down to the ground a bit on Long. Things we know.
1) Yes, change of scenery. Why? Change of a WAY better park to hit in.
2) The SHIFT! What? No Shift more hits. Funny how that works. Lol
3) More AB’s and more xp. He better of started to get better with all of the above, or he’d be a AAA lifer, or working with me.
Bottom line, he won’t sustain his current pace, not with that BABIB and K rate. But he will end up better than last year, as he should. I’m just hoping he can have a long solid career.
Has Marsh ever bathed I wonder.
He bathes in the blood of his enemies.
He eats gunpowder for breakfast. And washes it down with warm blood.
D*ckin the dog
One of my favorite players! Bummed the Angels traded him but still rooting for ya caveman!
The Angels MO are drafting guys with long swings and high leg kicks and they stay that way through the minos cause they can get away w it there. There must be others who could benefit by “getting guys closer to the hitting position than further away”
Nice tey skip, totally baseless. Ohtani big leg kick says hi, when he came over and he changed it. Bottom line, the hitters got to want to change. There’s a lot of ways you can be a better hitter, mentally, physically, maybe a change of scenery, and that usually is to a better hitters park. Anyway, lots of ways to get better.
This trade was the epitome of a win-win deal in my opinion.
Jo Adell needs a change of scenery next
BABIP-Y Rabitty. But yeah, wish the dude well. Always love seeing him rock that beard and smackin singles
Backup Catcher to the Backup Catcher
If Marsh can reduce his K rate a bit more, say down to 25%, he could have a long MLB career, and hopefully that career is in Philly.
Long must be some kind of Hitter Whisperer. When the Phillies traded for Pache (A’s), I was not impressed nor enthused. It isn’t very often the Braves (His original team) send a prospect packing and are wrong. Off the top of my head, only Adam Wainwright comes quickly to mind. Anyway, before he injured his knee, Pache actually looked like a MLB hitter.
Agreed Backup, someone on here with rational thinking, you nailed it. The jury is far from a decision on Marsh’s projected future. He’s still KO’ing a lot.
Which is weird when hot. Not to mention the super high unsustainable BABIB. Good luck to Marsh thou moving forward, let’s hope he hasn’t used it all up early on.
Now I’d like to see them start playing Marsh more against Left handed pitching.
Marsh and Blackmon need to play side-by-side.
Too bad we didn’t get him here in Boston. Imagine the fun we would have saying his name…..maaaaaaaash!!!!
I just double-checked, and Mike Trout’s lifetime OPS is exactly 1.000. (OPS+ 175)
This year, thus far, it’s a paltry .908. How exactly did the Angels inhibit his development?
Again, why is a trade rumors site writing about a player who is not a trade candidate or going to be a free agent? This rote boringness is inferior to Fangraphs. Stick to transaction stuff. Stop trying to be an analytics site. That’s not why people read you.