I bet you didn’t know who Ron Marinaccio was entering in the 2022 MLB season. That’s because you don’t usually find career-long minor league relievers that high on prospect lists. In fact, unless you follow a team’s organization from top to bottom, he’s the type of player you sometimes don’t hear about until you find him at the top of a leaderboard. when browsing a site like FanGraphs.
Well, you should get to know Ron Marinaccio. Our very own Chris Guay covered the right-handed last week and Dan Kelly detailed his development track. He was very effective in his first major league season with a 2.60 streak in 17.1 innings. It’s a strong start for a 26-year-old rookie who has been sailing in the minors since 2017 after being drafted in the 19th round from the University of Delaware. The reason I want to talk about this Yankees rookie is to marvel at his unicorn change. Let’s start as we always do with a video:
It’s two puffs against extremely talented hitters in Jose Altuve and Adley Rutschman, one on each side of the plate.
Marinaccio’s change is the kind of frisbee you notice as soon as you see it. It’s almost surprising to see it coming from liquidation too. Its slight hitch and above-average extension grant it extra deception, which increases its throws. However, it also helps create nasty horizontal motion. The pitch induces 17 inches of horizontal break, which is near the top of the league and is comparable to fellow reliever All-Star candidate Michael King in extension and movement.
But movement isn’t what makes Marinaccio the unicorn. He’s very close to the top of this ranking, but not quite near the top near the Devin Williams and Garret Whitlocks of the world. What makes it special is a stat I’ve talked about a few times this year when referring to some Yankees pitchers, the horizontal angle of approach (HAA). Of all the pitchers who have Marinaccio’s level of horizontal travel when they change, none come close to his HAA of -1.5 degrees.
For a quick recap, HAA indicates the horizontal sharpness of a pitch as it enters the strike zone. Marinaccio’s -1.5 degree entry means his shift enters on a sharper horizontal angle toward a right-handed hitter than any other shift with that level of horizontal stroke. In fact, the next closest is the aforementioned King himself and Twins starter Joe Ryan with an HAA of -0.8 degrees. That’s almost double the next guy! Combine that with its low release point and high extension compared to comparable slots and you have a unicorn yourself. Numbers against the field are also saved. The batters were terrible against him, with just a .042 batting average and a .083 hitting percentage.
I love unicorn locations. It’s not often on a baseball field that you can say, “I’m doing this differently than anyone else in the world.” Marinaccio can though, and that’s a big reason for his success in the minor leagues and his move to the big leagues this year.
When you have an outlier of any kind, the chances that you can stay in the major leagues for a long time are pretty high. That’s the goal these days in pitch development: find the outlier if it’s there, and then adapt the rest of the repertoire as needed to maximize that outlier. We see it happening in real time with Marinaccio. Get used to seeing this other kid from Toms River, NJ.