Orem, Utah —— For any star baseball player, being reduced to just watching the game from the bench is an extremely frustrating feeling. Even more so when you’re a top draft pick, trying to find your way to the to the big leagues as smoothly as possible with all the fanfare and pressure that comes from your high profile selection.
That has been the case for the Los Angeles Angels‘ 2016 second-round pick Brandon Marsh, an outfielder who suffered a delay in his pro career when, during the signing process last year, it was discovered he had a stress fracture in his lower back. That kept him out of game action through the entire 2016 season. But now, with his stress fracture in the rear-view mirror, Marsh (finally) came into his first season of professional baseball with a positive mindset instead of lingering on what could have been had he been healthy from the get go.
“It definitely built up lot of determination and motivation. I had to come out and prove myself,” Marsh told Baseball Census prior to an August 6 game for his Orem Owlz against the Missoula Osprey. “But I think it honestly helped me to start this year.”
Now, through his first 72 plate appearances, the 19-year-old outfielder has made the Pioneer League look easy, hitting .413/.472/.683/1.155 with three home runs and 16 RBI. This stat line is far from surprising after what I saw during the 2017 season opener back in June, as the talent has clearly always been there in Brandon Marsh. But as good as things may be going, the hard-hustling outfielder is never far from peril; on June 28th, Marsh accidentally jammed his thumb on a headfirst slide. The Los Angeles Angels prospect was again forced to the sidelines.
“It was a little frustrating. It would have been frustrating to anyone,” Marsh said. “Missing close to a month [in 2017], it was painful to have to sit back and watch like last year. But it really helped me open up my eyes and learn more about the game.”
The injury, which was similar to Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout‘s injury sustained in the big leagues earlier this year, allowed Marsh to make a connection with the two-time MVP.
“I actually met [Trout] through the process of my thumb injury,” the outfielder noted. “His was a little bit more intense, but I got to meet him and talk to him about how he got through his process.”
It was more than just a simple chat for Brandon Marsh, though, as he truly did appreciate the fact that he was talking with arguably the greatest baseball player of our generation.
“It was only for a couple of minutes, but it was an experience of a life time just to get to meet a guy like that.”
Despite the short yet bumpy road Marsh has had to start his professional career, he’s maintained a team-first attitude. The only thing he’s focused on is putting together success on the field with his team. And while it’s well known that the Los Angeles Angels have one of the weaker farm systems in baseball, that’s the last thing on the mind of the organization’s sixth-best prospect—and his teammates. Marsh doesn’t even really see himself as a top prospect right now, but more so just another contributor to the Orem Owlz.
“The Owlz are having a really successful year,” Marsh said confidently. “People can talk what they want about [the organization], but we come out and try to prove ourselves everyday. If we were the best, or if we were the worst, we’d just stick to our plan and play our game.”
His team-first mentality stretches across all aspects of his game. Despite being arguably the most talented player on the Orem roster, he’s willing to do what’s best for the team at the plate or in the field.
“Defensively, I like to take control,” Marsh said. “But we have a lot of center fielders on this team. Torii [Hunter], Spencer Griffin, so I’m usually mostly in right. Personally, for me, I feel more comfortable in center, just so I don’t have to worry about anyone calling me off. I can just go out and get it. But right field has grown on me. I played it in high school, and we had a really good center fielder in high school, so I’ve been in right field since my junior year.”
Right field, center field… all that really matters now to Brandon Marsh and the Los Angeles Angels is that he’s on the field in the first place. After a long, forgettable 2016, this alone is a victory—and the beginning of what could be a very exciting career.