Marek Minařík on the mound for the Czech Republic national team

Two-Way, Czech Style

When I wrote about Jan Novák a couple of weeks back I proclaimed him the best player in the Czech Republic’s Extraliga. There’s no denying that Novák is the best pitcher in the league and worthy of all kinds of acclaim. However, I was wrong in my proclamation. No matter what Novák does he will not be able to match the efforts of one EXL player who is among the very best in the league with either a ball or a bat in his hand.

I’m not entirely sure how Marek Minařík fell between the cracks of my EXL experience this season. I’m chalking most of it up to him playing for Tempo Praha and the fact that I didn’t watch many of their games. There’s no reason for that either, it just happened that when scrolling through the various EXL streams available on a given day I almost never picked a Tempo game. Random happenstance stopping me from watching a dynamic two-way player do his thing for all of 2021 is a real bummer. Luckily we live in modern times and after a tweet from Baseball Stat CZ alerted me to Minařík’s accomplishments I was able to go back and scope out some of the action.

First things first, Minařík being a two-way darling isn’t a new development. He’s been a two-way player his entire career except for possibly his brief four-year stint in the affiliated minor leagues. I say possibly because while his stats at Baseball Reference list him as having plate appearances in those years all his results are zeroes across the board in a way that reads like adequate stats simply weren’t recorded. That makes it hard to discern if those were random plate appearances or if the Philadelphia Phillies farm teams were trying him out a legitimate two-way option. Either way, in EXL he has been a two-way player since he entered the league in 2018.

At first, Minařík was positioned as more of a pitcher than a hitter. Don’t get me wrong, he was a two-way player, but he always pitched more than he hit. Most likely this was an attempt at saving his arm somewhat by not having him play as many games when he wasn’t on the mound. After three years of stellar hitting, it’s not surprising to see that Tempo decided to go all in and allow Minařík to hit and pitch at his own pace. The results, as they have been for all of Minařík’s EXL career, were off the charts.

This season Minařík toed the rubber for 68.3 innings (these and any accompanying numbers aren’t final as the playoffs are still ongoing) and racked up a 1.84 ERA, 0.908 WHIP, and 197 FIP-. Opponents hit a paltry .185 against the right-hander and from the very onset he was one of the best pitchers in the league. Looking back at a few of his starts he did this in much the same fashion as the aforementioned Novák, pinpoint control. Minařík posted the second-best BB/9, 2.1, of his career in 2021. His fourseam fastball sits in the 90-91 range and he is able to locate that pitch as well as his changeup and slider with the best of them. There’s nothing overpowering about Minařík when he has a baseball in his hands, yet hitters are easily overmatched because of how good he is at location and sequencing.

Once he steps into the batter’s box the righty swinging Minařík shows great bat-to-ball skills and raw power. In 115 plate appearances this season he has slashed .365/.421/.702 with nine home runs and eight doubles. He doesn’t walk all that much, but he makes up for that by having a great ability to make good contact no matter where the ball is in the zone. Add it all up and you have a hitter who finished the regular season with a 177 WRC+. That isn’t just good, that’s dangerous hitter levels of great.

All told, Minařík ended the 2021 EXL regular season with 4.4 czWAR; a full run more than the next best hitter and 1.6 more than Novák. He led the EXL in home runs and was second among all pitchers in strikeouts. I live for this type of player, two-way players are one of the most fascinating aspects of professional baseball. I know all about Marek Minařík now and there’s zero chance I will scroll right on by any Tempo Praha streams moving forward.

Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Unknown

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Bill Thompson
Father (human/feline/canine), husband, Paramedic, Socialist, writer Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and Off the Bench Baseball; freelance writer at various online and print publications. Member Internet Baseball Writers Association of America & Society for American Baseball Research.

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