Brailyn Marquez: Cubs 2019 Minor League Player Of The Year
The Cubs haven't had a pitching prospect like 20-year-old Dominican lefthander Brailyn Marquez during the Theo Epstein regime. He has front-of-the-rotation upside.
The Cubs installed Epstein as president of baseball operations in 2012, and in that time the organization has focused on hitters in the draft and has struggled to develop homegrown pitchers.
The Cubs understand that Marquez, who signed in August 2015, still has a lot to learn and needs to stay healthy to deliver on his promise. But the 6-foot-4, 185-pounds southpaw can naturally unleash triple-digit velocity.
In his July 25 start for low Class A South Bend, Marquez struck out the side in the first inning with fastballs clocked at 100, 101 and 101 mph. That night, he finished with 14 strikeouts and no walks while allowing only one hit in six scoreless innings.
Marquez's next Midwest League start featured six no-hit innings, which led to his promotion to high Class A Myrtle Beach, where in his first outing he carried a no-hitter going through five innings before being pulled after 79 pitches.
Through 19 starts this season, Marquez went 7-4, 3.19 with 110 strikeouts and 46 walks in 87.1 innings. He improved his walk rate from 5.9 per nine innings in the first half to 3.7 in the second.
"The arm strength has always been there,” senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod said. "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.
"The next time you see him, his power changeup would be a swing-and-miss pitch.”
Marquez also impressed the Cubs with his aptitude for making adjustments on the fly and receiving instruction from minor league pitching coordinator Brendan Sagara and South Bend pitching coach Jamie Vermilyea.
"They’ve been working on some specific mechanical things with Brailyn,” McLeod said, "what they’re trying to do with his front side and his direction. They messed around a little bit with some pitch grips, in particular on his breaking ball, to try to give him a different shape and design to it."
— There’s a strong possibility that Double-A Tennessee shortstop Nico Hoerner and Myrtle Beach catcher Miguel Amaya—two of the organization’s close-to-untouchable prospects in trade scenarios—will represent the Cubs in the Arizona Fall League as they move closer to the big leagues.
— Seven years after the Cubs drafted him out of high school, righthander Duane Underwood Jr. may have found his niche as a hard-throwing reliever. In that role he generates extra velocity, has refined a changeup modeled after the Kyle Hendricks approach and has de-emphasized his curveball.
Underwood put up a 2.83 ERA in 28.2 innings out of the Triple-A Iowa bullpen—with 36 strikeouts against 10 walks—before being called up in the middle of a pennant race. He strukc out all six Athletics hitters he faced in his season debut with the Cubs.
Patrick Mooney is a senior writer for The Athletic Chicago.