Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken to reach the brink of realizing his Major League dream. Here's a look at Los Angeles Angels outfielder Brandon Marsh. For more player journeys on The Road to The Show, click here.
After narrowing his focus to just one sport, Brandon Marsh developed into one of the best prospects in baseball.
Marsh was a football and baseball star at Buford High School in Georgia. His strength and athleticism enabled him to enter the Draft as the No. 48 prospect in the Class of 2016 despite low grades for his hit tool. He had the raw speed and skills of a natural center fielder – and wide receiver – but needed to refine his swing to maximize the potential as a hitter.
In 267 professional games, Marsh rose to MLB.com’s No. 53 overall prospect as his hit tool grade improved from 45 to 60. He’s been one of the most consistent hitters in the Minors, showcasing five plus tools while producing a .288/.368/.431 slash line and thriving on a well-paved path to the Anaheim outfield.
“He dominated the camp in every capacity,” Angels director of Minor League operations Mike LaCassa told MLB.com about Marsh’s performance at the alternate site in 2020. “Starting with the energy he brings every day, players build off of him every day. He’s a big reason we had such a competitive attitude. He has a high baseball IQ, plus instincts on the bases and defensively. He always plays hard.”
Those instincts have given him a feel for the strike zone that’s produced a double-digit walk percentage throughout his Minor League career. He also has the speed and arm strength to match the defensive savvy of a Major League center fielder, but a perennial MVP candidate may push him to a corner when he reaches the big leagues.
The Angels’ top prospect has mostly played center in the Minors, but also has gained significant playing time in right – his high school position. He even has some experience in left and reportedly got reps at first base at the alternate site last year. He was in right for his last three games of Spring Training in 2020, including the final contest in which he strained his elbow while attempting to make a diving catch.
The 23-year-old’s professional career also began with some injury issues. He signed for slot value after being selected No. 60 overall by the Angels in the second round, but did not debut in the Minors until 2017 due to an asymptomatic stress fracture in his lower back.
2017 (Class A Short Season Orem)
Marsh lasted three games before straining his thumb and missing a month of action. But when he returned any concerns about his bat-to-ball skills coming out of the Draft were quickly set aside. Marsh put together a .350/.396/.548 slash line with 22 extra-base hits, 47 runs and 44 RBIs in 39 games with the Owlz. He also stole 10 bases in 12 attempts.
"I never expect to struggle, but this has been very humbling," Marsh told MiLB.com that June. "It hasn't shocked me, but it has maybe opened my eyes up a little bit just that I can do this and I can play at this level. I think of it as expected. Whenever I come out, I'm supposed to … everyone is supposed to put up numbers, as many as they can. Stuff is just falling in my favor right now."
Marsh improved his 2017 walk rate as his career progressed but has been unable to shrink his strikeout percentage, which rose from 18.2 percent in 2017 to around 26 percent the following year and 22.3 percent with Double-A Mobile in 2019.
2018 (Class A Burlington, Class A Advanced Inland Empire)
Marsh’s first full season in the Minors was underscored by his ability to hit out of a funk – be it big or small.
He stumbled out of the gate in Burlington, starting in a 1-for-11 slump, but rebounded and was promoted after 34 games. He produced a .295/.390/.470 slash line with 16 extra-base hits and 24 RBIs.
"I've started being aggressive," Marsh told MiLB.com that May, "just trusting myself and not trying to stress too much, if I have to do this or have to do that. We're all here for a reason, on both sides. Just don't panic, just manage and do what you do. I stopped overthinking it."
The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder needed more than a mental adjustment to get out of the doldrums in the California League. His batting average got as low as .073 in late May before Angels’ hitting coordinators Jeremy Reed and Shawn Wooten intervened. Marsh did a full teardown and rebuild of his swing and finished with a .256 average, 28 extra-base hits and 46 RBIs for the 66ers.
"There are some days where I'm like, 'Wow, what am I doing at the plate?' But you just trust the process," Marsh told MiLB.com. "The injuries certainly weren't fun, but you've got to get through them. It's a part of the game, so I try not to think of the past and just take things day by day. My goal is to stay healthy and play as many games this year as I can. That's my main focus. Keeping the body right, staying healthy and letting everything else fall into place."
2019 (Double-A Mobile)
After he hit .240 in 25 at-bats in the Cactus League, the Angels were aggressive with Marsh and started him in the Southern League for his second full season. Marsh lived up to his reputation as a slow starter – batting .200 with one extra-base hit, 28 strikeouts and nine RBIs in 22 games. But he quickly improved in May, compiling a .347 average and .928 OPS in the same number of games.
"I'm more aggressive in the zone. In years prior, I've had a lot of takes in the zone," he told MiLB.com. "My biggest adjustment in the box is swinging at pitches I can do some damage with. It also depends on the situation and the guy on the bump. Anything belt-high -- slider, changeup, heater -- if they put it there, I'm going to put my best swing on it.
"A lot of guys struggle. I let my drill work and cage work, the repetitions, take the lead. It's cliche, but if I can get 1 percent better every day ... I'll put myself in a good position in the box. If it looks juicy, I let the drill work take over."
He missed nearly all of June after suffering a leg injury, returned for a five-game rehab stint in the Rookie-level Arizona League, then finished out the year with the BayBears. Marsh’s final Mobile slash line was .300/.383/.428. He had seven homers, two triples – both of which came on the night he hurt his leg -- 21 doubles and 18 stolen bases.
Marsh brought his strong regular-season finish into the Arizona Fall League in 2019. In 19 games for Mesa, he batted .328/.387/.522 with eight extra-base hits – including two homers, also on the same night -- and 11 RBIs.
After a strong showing at the alternate training site in 2020, Marsh was added to the 40-man roster in November and earned his third big league Spring Training invite in 2021. Los Angeles has an abundance of outfielders, including All-Stars Mike Trout and Justin Upton and former top prospect Jo Adell, to contribute at the Major League level. Marsh will likely begin the regular season with Triple-A Salt Lake, but certainly could play his way on to the Major League roster sometime this season.
Gerard Gilberto is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Gerard_Gilberto.