Top Pitching Prospect Brailyn Marquez Dazzles in Season Debut, Getting Whiffs and Touching 98 MPH

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Top Pitching Prospect Brailyn Marquez Dazzles in Season Debut, Getting Whiffs and Touching 98 MPH

Chicago Cubs

Yesterday afternoon, I had a feeling that I haven’t had in quite a long time. It was the anticipation of watching a legitimate, front-end Cubs pitching prospect. How long has it been? Maybe those last few Dylan Cease outings in 2017? If it’s not that, let’s not brainstorm anymore, because the answer will bum us out.

And this is a happy post!

Brailyn Marquez made his season debut against the Great Lakes Loon, on a HD feed that publishes a radar gun. He was on a 60-pitch limit, so he made it just 3.2 IP, giving up just a double, two walks and he hit two batters. The 20-year-old lefty also struck out seven of the fifteen batters he faced. Marquez topped at 98 mph on the broadcast radar gun, reaching that number three times. His velocity did dip as the game went on, topping at 95 mph in the fourth inning.

In total, Marquez threw 59 pitches, 37 for strikes (62.7%). He was able to get ahead with first-pitch strikes to nine of the 13 hitters whose plate appearance didn’t end on the first pitch. In fact, only four of the 15 hitters got to even 2-ball counts.

This allowed him to succeed without his best fastball command. What stuck out on that front is that Marquez frequently throws a 2-seam fastball. However, his ability to get that pitch in the lower half of the zone just isn’t there yet. Fastballs are darn near always up, which will be enough to succeed in the Midwest League at his velocity, but will need refinement as he moves up the ladder.

In total, Marquez was able to get 11 whiffs yesterday on his fastball. It’s truly fantastic to build the foundation of your repertoire around a fastball. The good news is that, if I’m right that Marquez is throwing 2 variations of fastballs – a 89-92 mph 2-seam and a 94-98 mph 4-seam – he’ll be able to treat those as almost entirely different pitches. That’s a nice edge, and you saw it in the seventh batter of the game: 91 mph ball high, 98 mph swinging strike on outside corner, 98 mph called strike middle-out, 91 mph swinging strike upstairs. However, a 22.4% whiff rate on a fastball is not exactly sustainable unless you’re Josh Hader.

Here was Marquez’ pitch usage in the game:

  • 49 fastballs.
  • 8 breaking balls. I call it a slider.
  • 2 change-ups.

Let’s dig into the usage of those offspeed pitches:

  • 0-2 count, gets K with slider coming off 2 fastballs
  • 0-2 count, leaves slider up and a line drive to CF is caught
  • 1-2 count, change-up in dirt for a ball
  • 1-2 count, best backdoor slider freezes batter for strike 3
  • 1-1 count, worst slider left up fouled off
  • 0-1 count, big sweeping slider gets check-swing strike; 2 pitches later in 1-2 count, low change-up taken for ball
  • 0-2 count, batter spits on slider in dirt
  • 1-1 count, get over slider for called strike
  • 0-0 count, last batter of game, starts batter with slider in dirt for ball

Interesting, I think, that six of the ten offspeed offerings come in way-ahead two-strike scenarios. It shows an implicit lack of trust throwing them in more neutral counts. I would actually encourage Brailyn to use it more in that second-to-last scenario, as an early count freeze pitch.

The four times that Marquez fell behind ended in two walks, a hit by pitch and a strikeout. If there’s development to be had, it’s building confidence in the big lefty that, hey, when behind in the count, your stuff is still good enough to win inside the zone.

I think that’s the kind of development we can all root for.

Author: Bryan Smith

Bryan Smith is a Minor League Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @cubprospects.