Cubs ready to deploy Brailyn Márquez as ‘pitching weapon’ in 2022
As the Cubs look to remake their pitching staff for 2022, top prospect Brailyn Márquez could be a major X-factor.
The left-hander turns 23 a couple weeks before pitchers and catchers report to spring training next year. He has not pitched in game action throughout 2021 amid a lost year that began with Márquez sidelined with COVID early on and then fighting through a shoulder injury all summer.
He has been the organization’s top pitching prospect the last few seasons and spent the pandemic-shortened campaign at the alternate site in 2020. He earned a call-up on the final day of the season, pitching against the White Sox.
Márquez struggled in that lone outing (5 runs and 3 walks allowed) but flashed his dynamic stuff, averaging 97.8 mph with his fastball.
That big arm is a serious weapon — especially from the left side — and could be a feather in the Cubs’ cap as they set out to address a need for power pitching this offseason.
With Márquez enduring a tough 2021 season, the Cubs plan to take it easy with the young southpaw this fall/winter.
“Right now, he’s healthy and throwing and ready to go,” Jed Hoyer said. “We’re trying to time his pitching up with this spring. There’s no point in ramping him up, having him throw a ton right now, shutting it back down and doing that again. So we’re trying to time that effectively.
“Brailyn with his arm and his ability and not having him this year — certainly that was a disappointment. Hopefully he’s healthy and ready to go this spring and he can be shot in the arm for us for sure.”
Márquez posted a 3.13 ERA in 22 starts in 2019, striking out 128 batters over 103.2 innings. He began that year at Class-A South Bend before finishing up with a 5-start stint at Advanced Class-A Myrtle Beach.
He earned the No. 11 spot on Lance Brozdowski’s midseason Cubs prospect rankings and the question still exists whether Márquez can be a big-league starter long-term.
That’s especially true in 2022, as the Cubs will be cautious of his workload.
“[Márquez‘ role is] unclear. Pitching weapon, so to speak,” Hoyer said. “It’s valid to ask how many innings he’s going to have next year. We’re gonna have to be careful, coming off of a COVID season, coming off of a season he didn’t pitch. I think those are constantly issues that we’re having to ask and address.
“We’re gonna have innings limits on him. We have to figure out when to use that — not dissimilar to the way we had to use Adbert [Alzolay] this year, that we had to be aware of his health and aware of his innings. I think our staff did a really good job with Adbert of navigating those things.”
The Cubs have plenty of pitching questions to answer for 2022 but if Márquez can truly emerge as a “pitching weapon” in the big leagues, that has the potential to be a game-changer for the team.