A Conversation With Yankees Rookie Right-hander Ron Marinaccio

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Much of the New York-market media attention that’s followed the announcement that Ron Marinaccio will be on the Yankees’ Opening Day roster has centered on his roots. A boyhood fan of the team that he now plays for, the right-hander was born and raised in Toms River, New Jersey.

There’s much more to his story. A 2017 19th-round pick out of the University of Delaware, Marinaccio has gone from a marginal prospect to the doorstep of a major-league debut in a little more than a year. As Eric Longenhagen put it when he wrote up the 26-year-old reliever for our 2022 Yankees Top Prospects list, “Marinaccio was a 2021 revelation.” In 40 outings comprising 66.1 innings between Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Marinaccio logged a 2.04 ERA and allowed just 35 hits. Moreover, he fanned 105 batters.

A pitch that he hadn’t previously featured has played a big role in his ascent. Described by Longenhagen as a “trapdoor-action changeup,” the offering grades out at 60 on the 20/80 scouting scale — and it’s not his only effective weapon. Marinaccio has increased the velocity of his fastball, and he’s also revamped his slider, in the process adding a horizontal-in-the-opposite-direction component to his arsenal.

Marinaccio — No. 20 on on the aforementioned Yankees list — discussed the analytics-driven evolution of his repertoire prior to a recent spring training game.

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David Laurila: What is the story behind your changeup?

Ron Marinaccio: “I’ve always had it, and the analytics kind of helped bring it out. With the boost of my velo last year, they moved me up a level, and from there we started diving a little bit deeper into the analytics. I realized that I’d only been throwing the changeup around 5% of the time, whereas last year it was probably closer to 40%, maybe even 50%. The usage went way up.”

Laurila: You said the analytics helped bring it out. Had you not known that it was good?

Marinaccio: “Yes, but in the past things were generally more fastball/slider. That was the way people thought righties should pitch to righties. I would throw it mostly to lefties, but once I started throwing it more to righties, I started to get more confidence in it. That’s when I was like, ‘Wow, I was only throwing this 5% of the time?’ My first outing, I threw over 50% changeups.”

Laurila: When and where did you first learn your changeup?

Marinaccio: “I learned the grip I’m using now when I was in [rookie-level] Pulaski [in 2018]. One of the coaches, Gerardo Casadiego, taught it to me. That was when I really added that third pitch to go along with my fastball and slider, and again, I started out just throwing it to lefties. I didn’t want to be a two-pitch pitcher, so I began introducing it to righties and it went from there.”

Laurila: Had you thrown a changeup prior to adopting your current grip?

Marinaccio: “I had. This one is more of a split-grip, as opposed to the traditional circle change. I guess I’d say it’s more of a splitter blend — it’s not completely a splitter — and it gets depth and bottom to it, rather than just horizontal.”

Laurila: Can you say a little more about the movement profile?

Marinaccio: “I try to shoot for as close to zero inches of vertical break. On my better ones, something catches that sends it more downward rather than horizontal. The more vertical break, the more it’s going to seem like a normal fastball. The closer you get to zero, or underneath zero, it starts to get more of that depth and bottom.”

Laurila: Did developing it take time, or did it come together pretty quickly?

Marinaccio: “I think that the movement worked right away. Using it in games is a little bit different, because you have to be able to throw it to certain sides of the plate. Getting more consistent with locating takes time, but as long as you’re consistent with your delivery and release, the movement should be there.”

Laurila: Where is your velocity?

Marinaccio: “The changeup is normally 82–84 [mph] — if I throw a hard one, it will be 85–86 — and then my heater is 94–96, for the most part.”

Laurila: We should at least touch on your breaking ball. Is that much of a factor anymore?

Marinaccio: “Definitely a factor. It’s actually a pitch that I picked up last year — the new slider that they’ve been teaching everybody, the seam-shifted slider. They gave it to me in spring training last year, although I didn’t feel extremely comfortable with it, so I stuck with my old slider for probably the first two months. I wasn’t getting the horizontal break that I wanted, so I started messing around in the outfield with the one they’d showed me. Some of them were moving left, moving left, so I started to mess around with it on the mound. From there I took it into a game. It’s been a huge pitch for me, because it gets the horizontal going the other way, the opposite from my changeup.”

Laurila: What is your pitch mix in a typical outing?

Marinaccio: “That’s kind of tough to answer, because I go shorter stints; it might be just one inning. For example, in my last outing the fastball was working early on, so we more or less stuck with that. I was probably 70% fastballs with maybe four off-speed pitches. But there are also outings where I’m 50% changeups. So it’s really kind of based on the hitters, and what is working best that day.”

Laurila: That said, would it still be accurate to call you a fastball-changeup guy who also throws a slider?

Marinaccio: “In past years, yeah. I think the slider is going to going to play a bit more of a role this year, though. But I’m definitely fastball-changeup.”





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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MikeDmember
7 months ago

Curious to see him in game action. His minor league record prior to last year was pedestrian. His numbers in 2021 were eye-opening with 105 K’s in 66 innings. Nice read.

MikeDmember
7 months ago
Reply to  MikeD

Didn’t have to wait long. Two K’s in an inning of work in his first MLB appearance.