Brailyn Marquez: A 2020 Retrospective and 2021 Preview

Find latest Prospect Report on Brailyn Marquez here

2020

Expectations for Brailyn Marquez reached a fever pitch prior to the 2020 season. After dominating South Bend and Myrtle Beach (Low A and High A, respectively) to a tune of a 3.13 ERA in 22 starts with a 128/50 K/BB in 103 2/3 innings, there was significant chatter that Marquez might start the 2020 season in AA Tennessee and be only a phone call away from making his debut. As every fan knows, the 2020 season would be like none ever experienced. Brailyn Marquez spent his entire 2020 season, save for one outing, in South Bend, IN.

Brailyn Marquez in South Bend by Clinton Cole (@cdcole55)

Without the benefit of a minor leagues, Four Winds Field (home of the South Bend Cubs) served as the Alternate Site for players on the 60-man roster who were eligible to play for the Chicago Cubs during the 2020 season. Still, with expanded rosters and a bullpen crying for velocity from the left side, fans clamored for news on when they’d see the fireballing lefthander make his debut. The Cubs front office consistently reinforced the message that he wasn’t ready and it wasn’t guaranteed he’d be promoted this year.

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While the debut was long awaited, the results quickly showed that 2020 would not be the year Marquez pulls a K-rod. All the statements by the Front Office made sense. The “stuff” was there, but the mechanics were just out of whack at the time. With every fastball that drifted off the plate and into the left-handed batters box, statements by former Cubs pitching guru Brendan Segara sounded more familiar. In a wonderful piece by The Athletic, Sahadev Sharma detailed Segara’s impact on Marquez’s attempts to link his upper and lower halves to operate in sync. Sahadev writes, “Around the middle of the season, he started struggling with some timing issues with his delivery,” Sagara said. “There was a lot of arm-side miss.”. As Brailyn attempted to compensate, his fastball drifted back over the middle of the plate. Despite the pure “stuff”, a powerful offense in the Chicago White Sox can turn on a belt high pitches in the middle of the plate.

Despite the relative disappointment that Marquez was not destined to save the 2020 season for the Chicago Cubs, this outing featured a moment so tantalizing that it should serve as the one take-away from his debut. Years of hard work by Brailyn and the pitching development staff culminated in a moment Marquez will never forget. Marquez against future MVP, Jose Abreu, slider outside edge (framed beautifully), good morning, changeup outside edge (foul), good evening, and then goodnight.

2021

Brailyn Marquez represents the type of high ceiling arm the Cubs system has lacked since the era of Juan Cruz, Carlos Zambrano, Mark Prior, and Angel Guzman. While those names will conjure mixed feelings, each of those pitchers made it to the major leagues and three out of four had runs of major league success. Zambrano, in particular, represented a dream scenario. He was a durable pitcher with significant impact seasons leading a major league staff. There are several development steps needed before Brailyn is ready for full time major league innings, but the foundation is there for an impact pitcher. The ultimate question will be where those innings come from, out of the rotation or the bullpen? Perhaps in 2021 that’s not as such a strict dichotomy as it was prior to the pandemic. A shortened 2020 leading into a full season 2021 means pitchers will need to be used differently. Gone will be the days (at least for one year) of the 200-inning workhorse. Teams will need to be creative in innings management and deployment of arms. 

According to Matt Dorey, the Cubs VP of Player Development, the initial plan is for Brailyn Marquez to start in AA. Not only is Marquez only one call away from Chicago, but it provides the Cubs an opportunity to be strategic about calling him up when his mechanics are clicking. There’s no reason to think he can’t finish the season strong at Wrigley.

Keys for the 2021 Season

  • Connecting upper and lower halves
  • Fastball command
  • Progress of his changeup and sinker

The Cubs are very optimistic that Brailyn will come close to reaching that perceived ceiling in short order. We dream on at Ivy Futures. If Brailyn were to land anywhere near that potential, the entire organization’s outlook would be dramatically shifted. Try not to get too excited, but the status of Marquez through the early months of 2021 will be must-watch.

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