Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What is happening to Jake Marisnick

Jake Marisnick has always been a highly-regarded prospect. It took Toronto offering a seven-figure signing bonus to dissuade Marisnick from honoring his college commitment and signing as a 3rd-Round pick in 2009.

Marisnick made his professional debut in the 2010 season, splitting his 69 nice games almost evenly between the GCL and Midwest League, posing a .253/.336/.398 line with 55K in 285 Plate Appearances.

He would repeat the Midwest League in his Age 20 season in 2011 and hit an impressive .320/.392/.496 with 27 doubles, 14 homers, and 37 stolen bases in 45 attempts. This resulted in a Top 100 Prospect rating from all three major prospect lists - #67 from Baseball America, #58 from, and an impressive #28 from Baseball Prospectus. Minor League Ball thought he could be a Top 10 prospect in all of baseball.

After performing well in 65 games at High-A Dunedin (.263/.349/.451), Marisnick finished 2012 with Double-A New Hampshire where, at almost three and a half years younger than his competition, he struggled to the tune of .233/.286/.336. Following the 2012 season, the Blue Jays took advantage of yet another Marlins tear-down and traded Marisnick, Henderson Alvarez, Yunel Escobar, Anthony DeSclafani, Jeff Mathis, Justin Nicolino, and Adeiny Hechavarria to Miami in exchange for Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, and some cash.

Now a Marlin, Marisnick's struggles in Double-A caused his stock to slip a bit - #64 from BA (actually a three-spot jump), #70 from, and #71 from BP (a 43-spot drop). But Marisnick rediscovered his stroke in 2013. In 70 games - 67 at Double-A Jacksonville, Marisnick hit .289/.350/.489, which earned him a controversial call-up to Miami on the same day as fellow outfielder Christian Yelich.

The Marlins had this trend of aggressively promoting players from the lower-reaches of the minors. Marcell Ozuna had 10 games of experience above High-A when he got called up; Jose Fernandez, I had forgotten this, came to the Majors straight from High-A.

In 40 games at the Major League level for Miami, Marisnick hit .183/.231/.248, suffering from a .232 BABIP. He hit the ball hard in 23.8% of his PAs, with a 54.8% Medium hit rate. This would be Marisnick's wheelhouse for the next three seasons.

Marisnick opened 2014 at Triple-A New Orleans and hit .277/.326/.434 before getting called back up to Miami where, in 14 games, he hit .167/.216/.167. And so, on July 31, 2014, the Marlins traded Marisnick with 2013 #6 overall pick Colin Moran, Francis Martes, and a 2015 Comp pick to the Astros for Jarred Cosart, Austin Wates, and Enrique Hernandez. That comp pick turned into Daz Cameron to make the trade a little more lopsided - at least on paper - for the Astros.

In 51 games for the 2014 Astros, Marisnick hit .272/.299/.370 with 3 home runs, 48K:5BB - giving him a 28.3% K-rate to a 3.4% BB-rate. Again Marisnick struggled to make hard contact, posting a 25.8% Soft-hit rate with a 51.6% Medium-hit rate. He would swing often, and contact would be an issue, what with his 12.3% Swinging Strike rate.

No matter. 2015 came and Marisnick was expected to man the outfield, having had just over half a season of major league experience - 105 games/355 Plate Appearances.

And it paid off - over the first 20 games of the 2015 season, Marisnick posted a .383/.433/.667 line on a suspect .417 BABIP, but maybe things were turning around. But from May 2 to the end of the season, Marisnick crashed back to earth, and left an impressively large hole: .204/.247/.323. He struck out 95 times in 304 Plate Appearances with 13 walks. While he would swing at 51% of all the pitches he saw, he made contact on 73.6% of the pitches (13.5% of his swings completely missed).

It was these struggles in 2015 which - in part - led the Astros to acquire Carlos Gomez shortly before the trading deadline. From May 2 until the Gomez trade Marisnick "hit" .185/.214/.270 with 59K:6BB. Gomez was going to hold down CF on a team that suddenly had playoff aspirations.

The tools have always been there - or at least the promise of the tools has always been there. BP said that Marisnick was "viewed as a five-tool talent with the potential to emerge as a major-league player." While there isn't one outstanding tool, the sum of his parts is reported to be greater than the parts themselves. Jason Parks labeled Marisnick a ".275 type with 20 home runs and 20 steals from a premium position on the diamond." BaseballProf wrote following the 2013 season that Marisnick was "built like a linebacker," with "both great raw power and good speed on the basepaths."

Now that Gomez is on the (wink) DL, Marisnick has another opportunity to put the sum of his tools together. But he's going to have to turn it around quickly. With Springer and Rasmus anchoring the corner outfield spots and the Astros praying to a room full of Jobus that Gomez could figure it out, Marisnick has played sparingly.

He hasn't exactly taken advantage of his limited playing time, though it could be likely that he hasn't had a chance to establish a rhythm. In his first 22 PAs (marked, admittedly, by a short stint in Fresno because of pitching issues), Marisnick was 1x21 with 11K:1BB. He reached on an error (once) as many times as he reached by actually putting a ball in play (once). His .100 BABIP is absurdly low, but so is how hard he's hitting the ball: 22.7% of the balls he puts in play have been considered "hard hit." He's hitting the ball at a medium rate 63.6% of the time. He's lifting the ball (52.4% flyball rate - 14% higher than his 2015 total), and he only has a 9.5% line drive rate - down from 19.7% in 2015. So yeah his BABIP is low, but he's letting outfielders make some fairly comfortable catches.

Where does Marisnick struggle? Against fastballs, Brooks Baseball notes that Marisnick is "exceptionally aggressive" but with below average power when he does connect. His exit velocity on fastballs averages 85 mph. He has seen far fewer breaking pitches and is more patient with those types of pitches, but his likelihood to swing and miss is at a "disastrously high" 54%, again with below average power when he puts some part of the bat on the ball. He again shows patience for the limited number of offspeed pitches he's seen, but swings and misses at those at a 47% clip with average exit velocity. That's how you have such a low BABIP: hit it to places where there are defenders waiting comfortably for the ball to drop.

Essentially, Marisnick sits fastball. If he sees a fastball, he's swinging, no matter what. And while he makes contact somewhat often, he doesn't hit it hard enough to do anything with it. Throw Marisnick anything on the outer half of the plate, or down in the zone, and he's not going to do much damage.

Marisnick's tools have always been highly-touted, but in 258 MLB games, with 763 Plate Appearances, he is a career .226/.267/.332 hitter with 212K:33BB. At this point in his career he's more suited as a defensive replacement/pinch-runner.

There are 146 outfielders in Major League Baseball with at least 30 Plate Appearances this year. According to FanGraphs' wRC+ (again, 100 is average), Carlos Gomez is 138th with a 29 wRC+. Jake Marisnick is dead last with a -34 wRC+. The Astros are going to replace Gomez for the next two weeks with one of the eight players in all of baseball who actually have produced at a worse rate. Circumstances being what they are: the somewhat unfair stint in the minors because the pitching staff was God-awful, extremely limited playing time, etc., this needs to be the point where Marisnick steps up and performs.