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Bi-Weekly Report Card: Brandon Marsh and Zach Plesac

The Philadelphia Phillies are back at home as they face the 26-31 Detroit Tigers for a three-game series.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

We have sort of a weird period when it comes to the report card. It’s been pretty difficult to talk about this team in a positive light given their record and frustrating moments throughout the season.

With all of that said, there is one topic I’ve been putting off and it’s probably time we start talking about it. I’ll be back in two weeks.

Brandon Marsh is an All-Star

At the trade deadline last season, Dave Dombrowski took a shot on a young outfielder that was sinking in Los Angeles. Given the Phillies’ desperate need for a long-term center field solution, it made complete sense to try and take a gamble on someone with top prospect upside like Marsh.

Marsh in 163 games with the Angels hit just .239 with a .653 OPS and 208 strikeouts. The Angels aren’t known for developing prospects over the years and Marsh is one of the many examples. He simply needed a change of scenery.

In a strict platoon role with Matt Vierling, Marsh instantly turned around and hit .288 with a 117 OPS+ after a handful of mechanical swing changes. Vierling was traded in the offseason which handed Marsh the everyday role.

Now, Marsh has blossomed into one of the better center fielders in baseball. He ranks top ten in fWAR, wRC+, ISO, and top five in batting average among qualified center fielders.

To put it all into an even bigger perspective, he has a higher wRC+ than Julio Rodríguez and Luis Robert Jr., two of the most exciting center fielders in all of baseball.

The big leap for him offensively has been through decisions. His walk rate went from 6.1% in 2022 to 13.1% in 23 while also cutting his strikeout rate down by nearly three percent.

Making better swing decisions has allowed him to hack a little more while he’s in the box. He raised his average exit velocity by nearly 3 mph and has the highest slugging percentage of his career.

Defensively, he’s been living up to the hype as well with 3 Outs Above Average which ranks tenth among center fielders.

As all-star voting began just a few days ago, there really isn’t a great argument for anyone else. Maybe Nick Castellanos deserves some love but his defense doesn’t even compare to Marsh.

At just 25, Marsh is developing into a future star right before our eyes.

Zach Plesac DFA’d by Cleveland

Given the fifth starter situation, it’s at least worth mentioning the idea of claiming/trading for Zach Plesac from the Cleveland Guardians.

Plesac showed real potential in 2020 with a 2.28 ERA in 8 starts but hasn’t been able to sustain that success since. In 2021 and 22, he put up a 4.49 ERA across 274.1 innings. He’s had major problems with allowing home runs and just hard contact overall.

In 2023 it got even worse, his secondary pitches have been shot and in turn, he put up a 7.59 ERA in 5 starts before the Guardians had enough.

They could’ve optioned him down to AAA without an issue but instead are letting 29 other teams in baseball have a chance at him for free.

It’s not that Plesac is a good option for the number five, it’s that he’s the only guy available. Assuming you won’t be able to get him to reach his 2020 form again, his two prior seasons would at least be enough for a chance to win every fifth day.

His biggest weakness is his fastball, outside of 2019, Plesac has allowed a slugging percentage of at least .500 on his four-seam fastball.

Cleveland has tried many different things to get the most out of Plesac, they fooled around with a sinker until this season, they had him throw his slider more, and cut down on his changeup and curveball but none of it worked.

Given Cleveland’s excellent track record of developing starters that dates back to the days of Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, it’s hard to imagine he’s going to find a better place to succeed.

The last margin for hope would be with Caleb Cotham, who has been developing a real track record for success that includes the likes of Zack Wheeler, José Alvarado, and Ranger Suárez who are all core members of their pitching staff.

It’s not nearly as good as Cleveland but it’s something and given the Phillies need for a fifth starter, it’s worth a shot. At worst, you have three minor-league options to play with so he might be a depth starter for the next couple of seasons.