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Prospect Brandon Marsh works on craft while awaiting call-up; Angels fall to Rockies

Angels outfield prospect Brandon Marsh makes a catch against the Dodgers in a preseason game March 24, 2019, in Anaheim.
Angels outfield prospect Brandon Marsh makes a diving catch against the Dodgers in a preseason game March 24, 2019, in Anaheim. An assignment in Long Beach this season has been eye-opening for him.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Roughly 18 miles separate Angels prospects at the team’s secondary site in Long Beach from Angel Stadium. At times this summer, the distance has felt even shorter for outfielder Brandon Marsh.

The 22-year-old has watched some of his closest friends get called up to the major leagues since the season started, including top prospect Jo Adell. He can’t help but wonder whether he might be the next one.

“It does make me and others in my position feel like we’re right there,” he said this week before the Angels opened a three-game series in Denver with an 8-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Friday night. “We just got to get over that little hump to get up there.”

Until the moment comes, he’s content to work at Blair Field.

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Games on Friday and Saturday between San Francisco and San Diego were postponed after someone in the Giants organization tested positive for COVID-19.

The Long Beach assignment has been eye-opening for Marsh, who missed part of summer training camp in July for undisclosed reasons. He has long been one of the Angels’ best prospects, considered the most defensively sound outfielder in the farm system. But working closely with a few younger top minor leaguers inspired Marsh to make a slight change.

Marsh raved about infielders Kyren Paris and Jeremiah Jackson and two-way prospect William Holmes, remarking in a videoconference Thursday that watching them hold their own against pitchers who are much older is “fun to watch. … I love watching them and then watching them figure themselves out.”

But fellow outfielder Jordyn Adams has made the biggest impact on Marsh. In a minor league system stocked with outfield talent, the 20-year-old Adams entered the season ranked third behind Adell and Marsh and fourth overall, according to Baseball America.

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Marsh knew that Adams, the Angels’ top pick of the 2018 major league draft, was supremely talented. He didn’t know Adams’ potential — scouts expect Adams to add strength to his 6-foot-2, 180-pound frame and become a middle-of-the-order hitter bat — was too great to measure.

The San Diego Padres are good for the first time since 2010, but COVID-19 restrictions prevent fans from watching games in person and celebrating with the team.

“He’s going to be one heck of a player,” Marsh said. “As long as he keeps his head on the right track like he’s doing now, he’s going to have a very special future. There’s no ceiling with an athlete like Jordyn.”

Marsh said Adams approaches games “like a caged bird that just got released, like a gazelle or something that can fly.” Marsh adopted the style himself.

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“Just watching him playing with that reckless abandon but cautious at the same time for his teammates, I implemented that into my own game, for sure,” Marsh said. “Just watching him and how dedicated he is in the outfield — I wouldn’t say I wasn’t dedicated before, but seeing him kind of opened up my eyes. Like, ‘Dang, this dude can really play. I’ve got to step it up.’”

Marsh doesn’t have much left to prove to the Angels. All he needs is to find sustained success hitting against high-level pitching. He showed that for part of last season, when an adjustment in his batting stance helped him unlock some power. He ended the year batting .300 with an .811 on-base-plus-slugging percentage at double A and hitting .328 with a .909 OPS in 19 games in the Arizona Fall League, a finishing school of sorts for the majors’ best prospects.

A normal season might have allowed Marsh, who quickly overcame an elbow strain in spring training and was scheduled to begin 2020 at triple A, to address the Angels’ concerns about his bat early enough to earn a call-up. But the brevity of the season means Marsh will likely have to wait until next year to join Adell in the major leagues.

Mike Trout’s contract is the largest in North American team sports history, but Patrick Mahomes’ deal should eventually be worth more, his agent says.

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The delay might be for the best. Marsh started learning to play first base last month and hasn’t yet mastered it enough to try the position in intrasquad games. Although he won’t be expected to move permanently to the corner infield spot, defensive versatility could expedite Marsh’s arrival.

“You never know when your time is,” Marsh said. “I just practice the craft day in and day out. … Maybe they might need a dude to go run over to first base for a day. I’ll be that guy if they need me to be. I’ll be ready.”

Short hops

Utility man David Fletcher could return to the Angels’ lineup as soon as Saturday. After fielding ground balls and running the bases in a pregame workout, Fletcher said Friday that his sprained left ankle, which has sidelined him since Aug. 30, is “pretty much good to go.” ... Justin Upton played Friday for the first time since getting hit in the left hand in consecutive plate appearances Tuesday.

The Rockies' Charlie Blackmon nears waiting teammates after hitting a walk-off grand slam Sept. 11, 2020.
The Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon runs toward home plate after hitting a walk-off grand slam in Colorado’s 8-4 win over the Angels on Friday night.
(Associated Press)
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Three takeaways on the Angels

1. Anthony Bemboom blasted a solo home run for a one-run Angels lead in the ninth inning, but Ty Buttrey, one of the Angels’ best late-inning relievers last season, gave up a tying homer minutes later to Ryan McMahon. Charlie Blackmon’s walk-off grand slam off José Quijada ended the Angels’ night. Buttrey has blown four saves in nine opportunities.

2. If not for a couple of misplays, Griffin Canning’s final line might have been spared two runs. The right-hander induced 16 swings and misses on 91 pitches and generated relatively soft contact on seven hits through 5⅔ innings. Miscommunication between right fielder Taylor Ward and center fielder Mike Trout on a tailing line drive to right center led to an RBI double that halved the Angels’ two-run lead in the third. Ward later misjudged a line drive that glanced off the right-field wall for an RBI triple.

3. The left wrist bruise Justin Upton sustained this week didn’t seem to bother the Angels outfielder Friday. He scorched a ground ball through the left side of the infield for a two-out single that scored Trout from third base and extended the Angels’ lead to 2-0. Since his season average wilted to .099 on Aug. 27, Upton has gone 13 for 32 with 10 RBIs.

Torres reported from Los Angeles.


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