Coming in at number three in our prospect position rankings is the Cubs’ collection of left-handed starting pitchers. While it is not the deepest group in the system, it could have a tremendous impact in the next two years, probably more so in 2022. Headlined by No. 1 prospect Brailyn Márquez, it is a serious collection of talent.
The Cubs lost lefty starters Jon Lester and José Quintana to free agency, so, while there’s a very slim chance Lester could come back on a team-friendly deal for 2021, they’re running low on southpaws. Even though the Cubs don’t have anyone who is technically ready to begin the 2021 season in the rotation, there are two arms almost ready for the immediate future and a few more who could be ready down the road.
Márquez made his MLB debut on the final day of the 2020 season and learned a little bit about what it’s going to take for him to pitch in the big leagues. He appeared to be a little overwhelmed by nerves and didn’t really finish his pitches very well, but he flashed some of the stuff that has him rated so highly.
The 2019 season was transformative for Márquez, who changed how and what he threw starting about midway through the season. He began relying more on his fastball in two-strike counts and mowed down 22 batters over two starts, earning him a promotion to Myrtle Beach. He worked to improve a changeup that comes in at a ridiculous 90 mph, plus the Cubs have been working to control a slider that didn’t find the zone consistently.
It is weird watching a game on TV that you covered live. But this moment is when Brailyn Marquez Finally figured out he didn’t have to use a slider to get strikeouts all the time. pic.twitter.com/FBTTWvOLz0
— TheBullpen🐾 (@RealCubsAnalyst) November 9, 2019
Márquez will be 22 next year and should probably start at Double-A Tennessee. Depending on what happens, he might find his way to Triple-A Iowa at some point in 2021. I’d still like to see him get another full year in the minors before the Cubs bring him up for good, but there’s really no reason to wait if he proves dominant at the upper levels.
Jack Patterson was easily one of the best stories of the Cubs’ system in 2019 as he went from extended spring training to South Bend to Myrtle Beach to Tennessee all in the matter of about three months. He flashed a mid-90’s fastball with a devastating slider and a back-breaking curve. Had there been a 2020 season, Patterson more than likely would’ve started out at Tennessee with a chance to be in Iowa in the second half.
As a control artist, Patterson actually might be on a faster route to the majors than Márquez and could wind up in Chicago no matter where he starts the ’21 season.
Bryan Hudson missed most of 2019 and 2020 with a stress fracture in his back, then showed up to instructs last fall throwing in the mid 90’s. The 6-foot-8 lefty still has a few things to work on, but may finally come into his own next year if he stays healthy. He should start the year at Double-A.
Brendon Little, a first-round pick in 2017, pitched really well in the second half of the summer of 2019 after missing the first half. His fastball was back up from 93-96, his curveball was devastating at times, and everyone I talked to in South Bend raved about his work ethic and desire to improve. After getting promoted late in the year to Myrtle Beach, he made four starts and he should probably be at Double-A to start 2021.
He’ll be just 24 years old, still a little bit younger than the average age of the players there. How Little does as a starter at that level will determine whether he sticks in the rotation or goes to the bullpen as many suggested he should have years ago.
Little 2019, 4 seamer at 96 pic.twitter.com/Uou7SAGwBH
— TheBullpen🐾 (@RealCubsAnalyst) January 9, 2021
After that, the Cubs don’t have many lefties to trot out to the mound every fifth or sixth day in the minors. Luis Lugo, a free agent they first signed in 2019, is 25 years old and could still fill out his 6-foot-5, 200 pound frame. He’s been both a reliever and a starter for Myrtle Beach and Tennessee, dominating at times when he got his breaking stuff over.
Chris Allen is a big 6-foot-4 lefty the Cubs took out of junior college in 2018 and he did well as a starter in Mesa in 2018, then as a reliever in 2019. Allen throws in the low 90’s and has a nice bender that he can throw for strikes and to get whiffs. His role for 2021 is still undecided.
Chris Allen curve pic.twitter.com/Tou38smowo
— TheBullpen🐾 (@RealCubsAnalyst) January 9, 2021
DJ Herz has not gotten a whole lot of work in 2019 after joining the organization as the Cubs’ seventh round pick out of high school in North Carolina. He worked hard all spring and summer, though, and posted videos of himself online while getting his fastball up into the mid-90’s after topping out around 93 early on. He throws across his body and hitters have a hard time picking up the ball.
— Dj® (@DavidjohnHerz) December 12, 2020
The Cubs also have four lefties that they acquired the past couple years that haven’t pitched a single inning yet. International free agent Joel Machado missed all of 2019, when he was supposed to be in the Arizona Rookie League, after skipping the Dominican Summer League. Adam Laskey was selected out of Duke in the 2019 draft and was shut down for the remainder of the year after being signed.
Undrafted free agent Scott Kobos out of Coastal Carolina is still pretty new to pitching after playing the outfield early in his college career. A physics major, Kobos has really taken to the science of pitching and had an amazing interview on The Rant this summer. Luke Little was chosen in the fourth round last summer after lighting up social media with a string of triple-digit pitches. I’d like to think the Cubs will stretch him out as a starter, but we will see.
— MLB Draft Tracker (@MLBDraftTracker) June 12, 2020
Machado will probably start the year at extended spring training in Mesa. Laskey could be at either Myrtle Beach or South Bend depending on health and the quality of his stuff. Kobos will probably be at Myrtle Beach, right down the road from where he went to school. That might be the best option for Little as well, especially if he is in the ‘pen. Otherwise, he should probably remain in Mesa to stretch out as a starter.
The Cubs have traditionally had one left-handed starter and maybe one or two lefty relievers at each affiliate. That could change now that there’s one less team in the organization and depending upon how the aforementioned players are spread out next year. We’ve heard for the last two years that pitching development was going to be more aggressive, so this coming season should tell us a lot more about how serious the Cubs are on that front.
Check out our other organizational breakdowns