Push Performance is a semi-private strength and conditioning facility in Tempe, Arizona. It’s also where you’ll find Royals 2019 second-round draft pick Alec Marsh working on his craft. Marsh, like hundreds of other minor leaguers, had his season derailed by a global pandemic.
Though Marsh had the intentions of building off a solid rookie season, the right-hander is making up for lost time inside a private gym.
“A lot of my buddies work out there and [professional players] work out there, so it’s a pretty good atmosphere,” Marsh told Royals Review. “I’ve had access to it this whole time. My training wasn’t interrupted at all really, which has been nice.”
When Kansas City selected Marsh with the 70th overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, he became the 20th college arm drafted by the Royals in two years. In his final season at Arizona State, Marsh logged 101 1⁄3 innings with 99 strikeouts and 36 walks in 16 starts. With his frame of 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, the Royals felt confident about adding another potential starter to its rebuilding farm system.
At the conclusion of the draft, Marsh packed his bags and headed to Idaho Falls for his first action in Rookie Ball with the Chukars. It was, however, a change of pace for Marsh with how often he pitched at Idaho Falls.
“I’d probably say the throwing was the biggest change and adjustment,” Marsh said. “You throw every day. The people that I had around me, told me what that was about. So, I trained like that in my last year in college. You throw off the mound every five days [In Rookie Ball] - plus bullpens two days after you start. In college, it was a seven-day span before I started. I had a lot more time to work on my pitches once I got to pro ball, because all I was doing was throwing every day.”
There were a few voices that helped Marsh work on his pitches, but the one who spent the most time with him was Chukars pitching coach Clayton Mortensen. Mortensen spent six years in the big leagues with four different teams, which garnered plenty of respect from the young arms on the Idaho Falls roster. Another former Major Leaguer, Jeff Suppan, worked with the Chukars’ pitchers for a few days in the 2019 season. Marsh soaked up every minute with the 17-year veteran.
“I got a lot of valuable information out of [Suppan],” Marsh said. “He was a big time, big league guy and spent so much time there that you learn so much from him. He’s a really good guy.”
The knowledge Marsh was gaining didn’t just do wonders for his experience. As the season lingered on, the right-hander began inflating his strikeout numbers and decreasing the walks. During his time at Arizona State, Marsh could be labeled as a “pitch to contact” type of pitcher with a low 90s fastball and average SO/9 numbers (8.8). However, over the course of 33 innings in Rookie Ball, the 22-year-old racked up 38 punchouts and walked just four.
In his final four outings, Marsh allowed just two runs on four hits with 12 strikeouts and one walk in 12 innings (1.50 ERA).
“I think settling down into my routine and the way I pitch was more comfortable,” Marsh said. “On top of that, my pitches got better in Idaho. Once I got to pro ball, the expectation just kept rising and the confidence got a little better. In college, you have so many factors... You have the draft and that puts a lot of stress on you. Once that’s all thrown out the window, you finally get to just train like it’s your career and have fun doing it.”
For Marsh, his work ethic in training and having fun hasn’t subsided. Even though the righty won’t be working with the club at T-Bones Stadium with the extended roster, the Royals have made sure Marsh won’t be losing a year of development in the process.
“[The Royals] send us workouts and communicate very well with the trainers,” Marsh said. “They send us workout programs, shoulder programs, and stuff like that. We also have zoom calls almost once a week about pitching and we’ve been taking a lot of video of our bullpen sessions because, obviously, we can’t work together at this point in time.”
The inability to work with coaches hasn’t prevented Marsh from working on his pitches and mechanics. With the help of advanced pitching technology such as Rapsodo, Marsh has been able to track his trends and observe the data on his pitches.
“I’ve had a lot of times where I work on my repertoire,” Marsh said. “I’m making a big focus on my fastball and cleaning up some numbers. Now we have access to the Rapsodo technology, so I’m working on getting more efficient fastball rates up and learning more about how my slider works to get more comfortable with it. Every day it’s just working on my four pitches and making them better each day. That’s kind of the main focus - treating it like a season even though there isn’t one.”
Marsh has been in the Royals organization for just over year, but with the constant communication, treatment from the front office, and provided coaching, the former second-round pick couldn’t be happier with the team that drafted him.
“It’s more of a family than an organization,” Marsh said. “Other organizations should look up to the way they do things. As an organization, they really know what they’re doing and know how to take care of people and really treat us well.”