Chicago Cubs know 2022 is a critical test for top prospect Brailyn Marquez

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

It’s no secret the Chicago Cubs are in desperate need of starting pitching. We’re all focused on free agency and the trade market leading up to a likely December 1 lockout and subsequent labor stoppage – but it’s worth noting the internal candidates who could make an impact on the rotation in 2022.

No doubt Alec Mills, Justin Steele and Adbert Alzolay will all get looks in spring training – along with plenty of others – but one name we haven’t heard much about, really since the end of the 2020 season, is the team’s second-ranked prospect Brailyn Marquez.

Marquez, 22, was a victim of the lost 2020 MiLB season – although he made his big league debut on the final day of the regular season with the Cubs, albeit a forgettable one. This year, the young left-hander did not pitch after he tested positive for COVID early on and then suffered a shoulder strain, meaning it’s been two full years since he experienced any sort of real workload.

And, as badly as the Cubs need reinforcements on the mound, Jed Hoyer isn’t taking chances with his club’s top pitching prospect heading into next season.

"“It’s valid to ask how many innings he’s going to have next year,” Hoyer told NBC Sports Chicago. “We’re going to have to be careful coming off of a COVID season, coming off of a season where he didn’t pitch … “I think those are constantly issues that we’re having to ask and address. We’re going to have innings limits on him. We’re going to figure out when to use that.”"

In other words, don’t count on Marquez being a key piece of that rotation puzzle in 2022. It’s far more likely that, when he joins the Cubs, it’s out of the bullpen with the occasional spot starts mixed in throughout the year. Given he’s never even pitched at the Double-A level and he’s coming off what essentially amounts to two lost seasons, it’s pretty likely he opens the year somewhere like Triple-A Iowa, rather than with the big league club.

Chicago Cubs will be keeping a close eye on Brailyn Marquez and his workload

Given his arsenal, which features a triple-digit fastball, it’s definitely worth asking ourselves whether Marquez is a future starter or if he has the makings of a shutdown late-inning reliever like Josh Hader of the Brewers.

Starters, more and more, seem to be out there only to get the ball to the relievers lined up behind them. Having an overpowering lefty option out of the bullpen surely wouldn’t be something third-year manager David Ross would be too upset about.

Next. 3 free agent starting pitchers still available for the Cubs. dark

All this to say: whether it’s at Iowa or in Chicago, out of the rotation or the bullpen, all eyes will be on Brailyn Marquez in 2022 as he looks to get back on track in a big way.