Chicago Cubs: Is Brailyn Marquez the team’s ace of the future?

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) /

Flamethrowing Brailyn Marquez has dominated all season, en route to Chicago Cubs Minor League Player of the Year honors from Baseball America.

It’s been a while – a long, long while – since Chicago Cubs fans had a big-time arm to get excited about. Don’t get me wrong, I think guys like Duane Underwood Jr. and Adbert Alzolay could very well wind up playing a role for the big league club down the road. But neither of them are an ace. At least not in my eyes.

Brailyn Marquez? This guy’s a whole different story. Just 20 years of age, the southpaw is putting the finishing touches on the best season of his blossoming professional career. Between Class-A South Bend and High-A Myrtle Beach, he’s pitched to a respectable 3.11 ERA with a 1.284 WHIP and 11.5 K/9 across 20 starts spanning 92 2/3 frames.

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But it’s what he’s done post-promotion to Myrtle Beach that’s been so staggering. This kid has been nothing short of thrilling to watch. I mean, even reading the box score after he takes the ball is enough to give you goosebumps. Don’t believe me? Take a look at these numbers over his last five outings (first two with South Bend, latter three with the Pelicans).

  • 7/25: 6 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 14 K, 71 pitches (only 19 balls)
  • 7/31: 6 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 8 K, 72 pitches (again, only 19 balls)
  • Marquez promoted from Class-A South Bend to High-A Myrtle Beach
  • 8/6: 5 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 3 BB, 4 K, 79 pitches (only 18 balls)
  • 8/13: 5 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 4 K , 62 pitches (only 18 balls)
  • 8/20: 5.1 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 8 K, 85 pitches (only 22 balls)

If you don’t feel like doing the math, let me do it for you. During those five starts, he’s turned in 27 1/3 innings of 0.33 ERA baseball. That’s right. Opponents’ OPS over this stretch? .290. Not their on-base. Not their batting average. Their OPS. Oh, and he’s thrown 70 percent of his pitches for strikes, with a 38-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

My. Goodness.

It’s no shock to anyone, then, that Baseball America named Marquez the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year. I mean, how could they not given the tremendous growth and performance we’ve seen from him this season. And that’s not even getting into his pure stuff, which can be downright dirty when he’s got everything working.

"“The arm strength has always been there,” senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod told Baseball America. “The velocity that we’re seeing this year is really impressive. He’s carrying it deep into games, and on any given night what I would call his power slurve would be a swing-and-miss pitch.”"

According to MLB Pipeline, Marquez ranks as the Cubs fourth-best prospect, trailing the likes of Nico Hoerner, Miguel Amaya and Brennen Davis. He represents the highest-ranked pitcher in the organization, ahead of Alzolay (4) and this year’s first-rounder Ryan Jensen (7).

What will the future hold? It’s hard to say. Marquez still has a ways to go before you’ll hear his name over the PA system at the Friendly Confines. Keep in mind, as outstanding as he’s been this summer, he still only has a handful of starts at High-A under his belt.

But if things play out the way the Cubs hope they do? This guy has the tools to be a stud. I’d love to see him in the rotation – I also wouldn’t mind him serving as the heir apparent to Craig Kimbrel once the potential Hall of Famer plays out the next three years of his deal. But at this point, it’s too soon to even begin to speculate what his role could be in Chicago.

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For now, let’s enjoy watching him tear up the low levels of Minor League Baseball. It’s been a long time since we’ve had an arm like this to get excited about. So let’s soak it up and take it in.