Brailyn Marquez – Picture by Todd Johnson

Ryne@rynodino23 : Who has the most potential to be an ace number one pitcher, if there is one?

When I first read this question, I had to pause and think for a second as to whether the Cubs currently have a number one starting pitcher in their system. The Cubs do have several pitchers with the potential to be a number one type starter. Yet, those prospects are a long way from getting there.

Today’s answer starts with Brailyn Marquez.

When you can throw a fastball 100 miles an hour, that puts you in that top of the rotation class but Marquez lacks total command of his pitches. Then again, 2019 was a transformative year for him as he began to really improve his changeup along with actually picking up some weights and working to improve his physical conditioning and strength.

After going through Covid protocols to start 2021, Marquez never got on track as he had shoulder issues for the rest of the year. But in that same span, Marquez also got on board the nutrition combined with weight training routine and has totally reshaped his physique. His Instagram account is littered with pictures and videos of Brailyn 2.0. I’m excited to see how this all plays out in 2022. 

Since he didn’t pitch it all in a game in 21, the Cubs will probably bring him along slowly with the goal of getting him back in the rotation full-time in 2023.’

Player #2 is Caleb Kilian. He’s not an ace yet, but he’s getting close to being ready. His turn in the AFL flashed a mid to upper 90s heater, a cutter, curve and change. 4 pitches, my friends, that he can throw for strikes in any count is a nice foundation for a MLB pitcher. The question is whether those pitches will be out pitches. For now, that’s going to be the key for Kilian’s future. He’s on track to be in Chicago at some point in 2022. He will probably slot in as a three-ish pitcher by then, but will he continue to move up towards the top of the rotation over time?

One thing in Kilian’s favor is he has a big frame to withstand the rigors of a major league season. At 6-foot-4 and 180 lbs. (now likely 200+), he can easily continue to add to that frame without much trouble. MLB Pipeline added onto that by saying,

“Kilian’s lanky 6-foot-4 frame gave him more projection than a typical college pitcher.”

The final player most likely to be a top of the rotation arm is Kohl Franklin. Like Marquez, Franklin did not pitch it all in 2021 and is hopefully on track to pitch in 2022.

All throughout the pandemic, Franklin worked out extremely hard. The Cubs had to pull him back to keep him from injuring himself. It was said that he was approaching the upper 90s on his fastball. Already armed with a devastating change and a killer curve, Franklin could be the guy that we’re all looking for. After fighting some shoulder issues in 2021, I’m looking forward to seeing him in 2022.

However, after not basically pitching for two years, how are the Cubs going to handle Franklin’s workload and where are they going to send him to restart his development? Will it be in Myrtle Beach? Or could it be in South Bend? Will he be limited in his innings for a couple of months? And will he be dealing in the upper 90s or the low to mid 90s when he returns?

There are several other names who are probably middle-of-the-rotation guys now that we should keep an eye on next summer. They include DJ Herz, Ryan Jensen, Daniel Palencia, and Drew Gray. However, they all have work to do to get into that TOR conversation, which seems to be the theme of the day.

One other player to watch is not even in the organization yet.

The Cubs have the number seven pick in this year‘s draft and could easily pick a top of the rotation starter at that spot. There’s a small problem, though. Who is that number one arm in this year‘s draft? Odds are he’s probably going to be working his way up the rankings. I would not put it past Dan Kantrovitz to take a big armed guy at number seven. I’d prefer a hitter, but Kantrovitz is going to take whoever he thinks has the biggest potential in the draft. If that person is a pitcher, he better be a number one guy at number seven. Righty Dylan Lesko comes to mind as does Arkansas’ Peyton Pallette.

If healthy, Kumar Rocker could probably be staring the Cubs in the face with a definite ACE profile but he comes with some injury concerns. Then again, so does any pitcher.

However, as we see every year in the draft, some pitcher is going to break out and work their way up the rankings and into contention for that seven spot.