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Prospect Report: Brailyn Marquez

True ace potential from left hand side, but development will require significant improvements to command, sinker, and changeup.

How acquired: International Free Agency 2015

There isn’t a single arm in the entire Cubs system with more ceiling than Brailyn Marquez. He’s steadily improved from the lanky left handed who could touch the low 90s and is on the doorstep to impacting Wrigley if he can make more incremental improvements to his mechanics and secondaries.

Mechanics and Control

Marquez has very smooth mechanics for a 21 year old fire-balling lefty, but there’s still work to be done in refining. He has a long arm path. It’s been in vogue for development staffs to shorten arm paths (see Giolito, Robbie Ray, etc), but the Cubs have actively worked to keep Brailyn’s arm longer in the delivery. While there’s very little effort in the delivery, the long levers can cause his arm slot to drift. The Cubs have made a concerted effort to work with Marquez to keep his upper and lower body in sync. It’s definitely control over command right now. If he wants to stay in the starting rotation it’ll be critical to establish even just below-average command and average control. His stuff is so elite that it could still play at a high level with modest improvements.

Pitching Arsenal

Fastball: Absolutely elite potential in this pitch. Marquez routinely pitches close to 100 mph (touches 102), but sits mid 90s late in starts. He looks like he’s just playing catch and it eats up hitters. While it doesn’t present with high spin rates (2384 rpm average in brief 2020 appearance), the velocity is unbelievably impressive. The command needs to make significant improvements for this pitch to reach it’s potential. Upper 90s from the left side down the middle of the plate will play at A+, but he’ll need more in the majors. I’m confident that can improve. The fastball can be a plus-plus pitch.

Changeup: Clearly Brailyn’s third pitch. During his one outing in 2020 he consistently slowed his arm action when throwing his change, which will need to be cleaned up. The White Sox were able to just spit on it. He threw it 10 times and two of the pitches were solid (one was actually really nice and I’m shocked Encarnacion didn’t swing at it). The pitch was consistently in the 90-91 range and not very effective due to his command issues. When he’s on, the changeup plays off the fastball. I won’t put too much stock into his one 2020 outing. I have this as an average pitch based on his 2019 outings and I really think the pitch fits well in his repertoire when he throws it down and away to righties. This pitch is the key to him becoming a starter.

Slider: Utilizes a curve grip in his “spike slider”. Marquez designed this pitch along with former Cubs pitching guru, Brendan Segara It tunnels fairly well with his fastball when his mechanics are flowing. I had this pitch from 82-85 mph and it’s the most successful when he’s burying it. Occasionally he’s let it slurve over the middle of the plate, which he was able to get away with that at Myrtle Beach. I have it as an above-average pitch on it’s own, but it plays up when the fastball is commanded well. With continued refinement, I’d project this to be a consistent plus pitch.

Sinker: This pitch is a work in progress and it wasn’t thrown at all during his 2020 outing. Marquez began to work with it this year with the pitch design staff. I’ll refrain from any sort of grade or prognostication. With the obvious caveat that the Cubs front office isn’t going to be too forthcoming if there were negatives, here’s Criag Breslow on Brailyn Marquez’s sinker courtesy of The Athletic ($, subscription required and encouraged).

“When he threw his first sinker, we realized that it could make sense to accelerate its development, given just how unique a profile it was,” Breslow said. “We still controlled the volume, wanting to focus on the development of the four-seam, until a few weeks ago, where we asked him to gain some additional comfort deploying what we believe can serve as a plus big league pitch.”

Craig Breslow via Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic

Future Projection

If I’m being cautious, I see a reliever, but don’t let that scare you. We’re talking elite, take-over-the-game time of talent. I won’t comp him to either player, but thinking back to the impact Andrew Miller in 2016 and Josh Hader in 2018-2019 had on playoff games. If the opposing team didn’t have the lead in the fourth inning, the game was over. Both pitchers were multi-inning incinerators and carried their respective teams further in the playoffs than anticipated. Brailyn Marquez can be that and more.

There is always the hope that Marquez has a more normal Spring Training, gets into a rhythm during the MILB season, and finds himself with the opportunity to start for the Cubs during the 2021 season. He’ll need significant refinement, but there’s elite talent there. If the changeup and sinker are able to be average pitches and he makes strides with his command, then the sky is the limit. The 2021 and beyond question is “will his impact be out of the rotation or the pen?”.

Prospect Report: Ed Howard IV

Local high school draft pick is the next in a long line of elite shortstop prospects in the Cubs system

Ed Howard in 2020 Instructs by Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22)

How acquired: MLB Draft 1st round #16 overall, 2020

Gavin Lux, Royce Lewis, Jordan Groshans, Bobby Witt Jr… Ed Howard. The track record for top prep shortstops in recent years is excellent. Heading into the 2020 MLB first year player draft, many draft sites noted that Howard was “falling” in the rankings and mocks. The perception was at the time that Howard didn’t have the opportunity to show his progress leading into his senior season that other prep shortstops like Carson Tucker did, and was “losing ground”. In mock drafts, the Cubs were frequently mentioned with a bevy of college pitchers and OF Garrett Mitchell (ultimately drafted by the Brewers) and while the Athletic named Ed Howard one of the six players they believed the Cubs had zeroed in on, it still was a surprise to hear his name called at #16 by his hometown team. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been surprising at all. Ed Howard possesses the skills to be an above average and even All-Star shortstop for over a decade in the major leagues.

Hit

I won’t dwell too heavily into the mechanics since he has been working with Justin Stone and the hitting department down in instructional league, but it’s a swing that doesn’t have a lot of moving parts. He utilizes a short rock-back and has a timing mechanism that’ll need to get ironed out. The mechanism works well in batting practice, but he had a few instances of being late on velocity in-game. The swing can get long, although in more recent footage it’s shortened up. It’s not there yet, but he’s just entering pro ball. I have seen Howard catch up to a really good fastball on the outside corner and drive it. I’m not concerned about the hit tool. It projects to be at least average. I’d bet his future projection is above-average. Fangraphs puts an above-average hit tool at .270 BA. That sounds within reach.

Power

This is likely the most divisive projection for Howard. He looks to have put on some excellent strength and started to fill out his projectable frame during the shutdown. Without in game footage of his time in instructs, I’ll cautiously say he projects to average power (15-20 home runs), but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this projection increase in the coming years in pro ball.

Field/Arm

Ed Howard is universally recognized for his defensive chops. He can move well laterally to his left and right and possesses a projectable frame that allows him to add muscle (see above) while still looking the part of a future plus shortstop. Nicknamed “Silk” by his teammates at Mt Carmel, everything Howard does in the field is smooth. He has enough arm for SS and that can continue to improve further in pro ball.

Speed

Steals don’t appear to be a huge part of Howard’s game, but he appears to have enough speed to put up a handful a year. If anything, his speed is more important to his fielding and that’s not in question. He looks like he’ll have above average speed.

Future Projection

Ed Howard IV has All-Star potential as a shortstop. Being drafted by the Cubs and working with Justin Stone offers Ed Howard a strong projection to provide above-average value on offense and plus (or higher) value on defense.

Welcome to Ivy Futures!

I grew up in the Chicago Suburbs before moving on to pharmacy school, then residency and clinical practice, and finally out to Willamette Valley following the Oregon trail with my wife, Christa, and dog, Addison. Following the Cubs minor leagues and the MLB draft has been my passion since I became a fan. I scoured every Baseball America article and newspaper clipping that featured the Cubs prospects. When I had the opportunity to attend the Cubs Convention as a child, I waited in line to meet Juan Cruz, Nic Jackson, and Bobby Hill rather than Mike Remlinger (No offense Mike!). My summers home from college involved me dragging my parents to Kane County Cougars because I had to see Javy Baez ( he went 1/4 with a booming home run to straight centerfield), Albert Almora, and Dan Vogelbach. The conversations about the Cubs organization, MiLB prospects, and the MLB Draft are what I love most about following baseball.

Ivy Futures is an opportunity to continue these conversations. I’ll try to blend my perspectives on the Cubs organization and players with sabermetric and biodynamic data, when available. I’m open to hearing your perspectives as well. Let me know your recommendations for topics and mediums to discuss them.

I hope you enjoy Ivy Futures!