Monday, September 22, 2008 | By Alex Eisenberg
This week, I want to discuss a couple pitchers named Brett.
One is Brett Marshall, drafted by the New York Yankees in the 6th round of the 2008 Major League Baseball draft. The other is Brett Hunter, drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 7th round of last June's draft. Today, we break down Marshall.
With first round draft pick Gerrit Cole opting for college over the Yankees, the best hope of finding a front of the rotation starter out of the 2008 draft class falls into the hands of Brett Marshall. While his upside may not be quite that high, it is certainly considerable. However, there is no doubt that Marshall is a very raw product.
A couple thoughts:
1. Marshall is slide-stepping in the clip on the right. That should be eliminated because he's learning from two separate sets of mechanics (the leg kick and the slide-step). That leads to consistency issues in how he performs from the stretch and the wind-up. In addition, the slide-step is meant to be quicker to the plate. You eliminate some of the lower body action to speeden up the delivery and as a result, you can lessen the quality of your stuff and become more "armsy" of a throw, something that should be avoided.
2. Front side mechanics - a little awkward (see how the glove tilts to the side as he firms up?), but they get the job done. This is important in terms of control and finding a consistent release point.
Now, I'm sure the first thing many readers noticed is Marshall's arm action. He makes an "Inverted-W" or more simply, an M. That's not a guarantee for injury as some would have you believe, but I think it's safe to say you can raise his risk factor.
One reason why the injury risk rises is that it can delay the external rotation, which occurs when the forearm appears "lay back" as the arm is rotating into release. The elbow goes above the shoulder, but drops back down just as the front shoulder begins to open. In an effort to keep up with the opening of his front shoulder, Marshall's rotation is faster, more forceful. This is good for velocity, but perhaps more stressful on the shoulder because again, more force is being applied to the shoulder.
That's just a theory though. Until we get actual research and evidence of its affects, all we are dealing with is speculation.
Keep in mind that such an arm action could explain why certain pitchers throw as hard as they do. It's also possible the arm action is more comfortable for the pitchers who use it. No one arm action is right for everybody.
Ultimately, the Inverted-W is something that has been defined differently by multiple people, so there is no question that confusion abounds on the topic and the term is often misused when discussing mechanics. I hope to do a more in-depth article on the Inverted-W in the near future.
Keeping Marshall Healthy
Should the Yankees fix Marshall's arm action "problem"? I don't think so....unless it's becoming clear his shoulder can't handle the velocities that are associated with it. Just make sure he has good timing with regards to the other parts of his mechanics and be careful about pushing him too hard as he builds up arm strength.
Marshall may very well may get injured as a pitcher, but it may not be because of his mechanics, which are only a small part of the equation. It may be because he was overworked as a high school pitcher by his coaches. Does 146 pitches for a 17-year old sound like something that was done to preserve Marshall's future health?
My feeling is that Marshall should really be treated with kids gloves. My reasoning includes the fact that Marshall is relatively new to pitching as he was only recently converted from shortstop. While his arm has less mileage on it--there should be questions about how well his arm is conditioned to handle heavy loads of pitching. He's going to need time to:
1. Learn the different facets of pitching (selection, setting up hitters, etc)
2. Build up innings in reasonable intervals and as I stated early, treat him with kids gloves--especially in his first couple years of professional ball.
Marshall drops his front leg in a straight line toward home plate. There are many ways to stride into foot plant, but I like what Marshall does because I think he makes it easier for himself to add momentum into foot plant and achieve a forceful rotation of the hips.
The path his front leg takes should also help him enact a longer stride, which is something he should strongly consider doing. A longer stride could add a couple mph to his fastball as he gives his legs a bigger role in the generation of velocity. His fastball would also get on hitters a little more quickly because he would be releasing the ball a little closer to home plate. You can see an illustration of this in the graphics in the "Stuff"' section.
Marshall has very good, very lively stuff. The fastball sits between 89-96 with plenty of tail and sink. He said in this interview he threw two fastballs: a 2-seamer and 4-seamer, which would explain the variations in velocity. This may also mean Marshall has the ability to become a groundball/strikeout type pitcher, which would make him a sabermetric favorite.
The slider, which he didn't throw in the video provided, is regarded as his out pitch and clocks in between 84 and 88 mph, while the change-up is presently a below average pitch. Marshall did throw what looked like a curveball with a nice sharp break. It was clocked at 76 mph. Below is Marshall's fastball (left) and curveball (right) in action:
In terms of control and command, he still needs to find consistency with each of his pitches, but judging from his overall mechanics and from what I have read and seen, I would say his control projects anywhere from average to above average.
As noted earlier, Marshall's upside may not be top of the line, but he can get pretty close. However, the gap from what he is to what he can is quite large. '
Should Marshall remain healthy, I see his upside as a mid-level No. 2 starter with his downside--not including the usual "blows his arm out" downside--to be a solid power-arm out of the pen.
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