Brandon Marsonek took an untraditional path to professional baseball, but he is making a strong impression in his pro debut season. An undrafted free agent signing from a small college program in Alabama, Marsonek parlayed a dominant start in the Arizona Rookie League into a promotion to the High-A California League. Fifteen appearances into his pro career, Marsonek is being asked to get big outs for a team in the playoff hunt.
A native of Pennsylvania, Marsonek traveled south to find an opportunity to play baseball at the collegiate level. The 6’3’’ left-hander began his career at Roane State Community College in Tennessee. While playing for RSCC, Marsonek participated in summer ball, where he found a path to a four-year program.
“I played summer ball in Myrtle Beach and Alabama A&M’s grad assistant was my assistant coach,” Marsonek said. “He recommended the school to me.”
Marsonek pitched for two seasons for Alabama A&M, a SWAC school. His first season didn’t go particularly well, as Marsonek posted a 7.75 ERA in 98.2 innings. He struck-out 89, but he walked 67. After a summer pitching for the Nevada Griffons of the MINK League, Marsonek came back to Alabama A&M and dominated. In 111.1 innings, he posted a 2.91 ERA and a 137:60 K:BB. Maronsek started eight games and relieved in 30 others.
Marsonek’s performance with the Bulldogs caught the eye of A’s area scout Kelcey Mucker, who came out to watch Marsonek on more than one occasion. Although the A’s didn’t call his name during the draft, they were quick to reach out afterwards and sign him as an undrafted free agent.
“I was thrilled,” Marsonek said.
The 23-year-old began his pro career in the Arizona Rookie League. He made a strong impression on the A’s player development staff, posting an 0.93 ERA in 9.2 innings over his first seven appearances. He struck-out 18 and walked four. When injuries left the Stockton Ports’ pitching staff short-handed, A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman turned to Marsonek to fill what, at the time, was meant to be a temporary role in the Ports’ bullpen.
Marsonek took the opportunity with the Ports and ran with it. He didn’t allow a run over his first two appearances and he appears to have carved out a spot with Stockton for the rest of this season.
“He did really well in Arizona and we had the injuries to Andrew Tomasovich and Brandon Bailey went down,” Lieppman said in a recent interview with OaklandClubhouse. “We had a lot of injuries and we needed a guy who could go in and fill a spot and help the team out until these guys got healthy. Then all of a sudden, he’s back-to-back three scoreless innings efforts. Even prior to that he pitched very well. [H]e was in the right spot at the right time and got promoted and he’s performed. I’m hoping to leave him there to finish the season.”
Since arriving in Stockton, Marsonek has appeared in eight games. He has a 1.17 ERA in 15.1 innings. Opposing batters are hitting just .127 against him and he has 14 strike-outs. On August 13, he recorded his first save as a pro. He says that will always be a memorable moment for him.
“That was pretty exciting, getting my first save in High-A,” Marsonek said. “I didn’t even get one in Rookie ball. To be able to say that I got my first save in High-A was cool.”
Marsonek has 32 strike-outs in 25 pro innings thus far and he struck out 9.69 per nine innings in his two seasons at Alabama A&M. He says his slider is his go-to pitch when he is looking for a swing-and-miss offering. In addition to the slider, Marsonek throws a fastball and a curveball. Recently, he began work on adding a change-up.
“It’s a pitch I’ve always been trying to throw,” Marsonek said. “The A’s have been emphasizing trying to throw one, so I have been working with [Ports’ pitching coach Steve Connelly] on developing one.”
A change-up is usually a left-hander’s best pitch against right-handed hitters, but even without an effective change-up in his arsenal, Marsonek has found success versus right-hander this season. With Stockton, Marsonek is holding right-handers to a .135 average.
Marsonek says his approach versus right-handers is simple.
“Just trying to throw to both sides of the plate and keep the hitters off-balance between the fastball and off-speed,” he said.
One area Marsonek acknowledges he needs to improve is with his command. He has struggled with walks in recent outings, although he has been able to work his way out of some tight jams. Last night, Marsonek walked the bases loaded in the top of the 10th inning versus Modesto, but he recovered to strike-out the next two batters before Nolan Blackwood finished off the scoreless inning.
“I want to be able to command all three of my pitches better,” Marsonek said.
Ports’ manager Rick Magnante has called on Marsonek to pitch in several situations with the game on the line in recent weeks. Maronsek has experience both starting and relieving from his college days, but he says he enjoys the challenge of pitching in relief.
As the season winds down, Marsonek is happy with his first experience as a professional baseball player.
“It’s been exciting just figuring out how it all works, coming from a small college and going into pro ball and seeing how different the facilities are and the players,” he said. “Everyone around me is amazing to play with.”
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