Chicago Cubs prospect Brailyn Márquez’s journey to get back to the big leagues has hit another hurdle.
Márquez underwent a surgical debridement on his left shoulder June 17, vice president of player development Jared Banner said Monday. Márquez is out for rest of the season. The Cubs expect him to make a full recovery.
“It was something that has kind of been lingering for a while with both the throwing program and off the mound,” Banner said. “Ultimately it was something that we had to do.”
The 23-year-old hasn’t pitched in a game since Sept. 27, 2020, when he made his MLB debut on the final day of the regular season and allowed five runs in ⅔ innings against the White Sox.
This was expected to be an important year for Márquez, the Cubs’ former top pitching prospect. He needs work against hitters in game situations and to get back into the rhythm of a season. His last minor-league game came at High A in September 2019, and he has yet to pitch above High A in his seven-plus seasons in the organization besides his brief major-league debut.
COVID-19 has twice set him back.
Márquez contracted the virus in spring 2021 and told the Tribune in March that he subsequently developed the heart condition myocarditis, which he dealt with for months. Left shoulder fatigue then cropped up and lingered through the summer. A summer training program had Márquez feeling good heading into camp, until he again tested positive for COVID-19 and was symptomatic, preventing him from reporting to camp until March 21.
“When you have that long time off, it’s similar to having a rehab like Tommy John — the physical part of it is fine. It’s the mental part of going back out and competing,” pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said of Márquez in March. “If he does that, and everything’s going good, there’s no question he can help us at some point.”
Márquez was once rated as high as the No. 37 overall prospect in baseball by Baseball America before the 2020 season. The Cubs appeared poised to have Márquez begin this minor-league season as a starter, but after another lost year Márquez might be transitioned into a reliever role — if he can stay healthy.
While Márquez’s big-league future remains murky, top prospect Brennen Davis is nearing a return.
Davis is currently at the team’s complex in Mesa, Ariz., building up after undergoing back surgery June 2 to cauterize a vascular malformation. The Cubs are hopeful Davis will be playing in games in two or three weeks, starting in Arizona and eventually working up to rejoining Triple-A Iowa.
“You have to go one step at a time with something like this,” Banner said. “It kind of fits the timeline that we were expecting. You never know what’s going to happen on the medical side. But we were hopeful the whole time that he’d be back this year, and it looks like he should be.”
Davis, 22, hasn’t played since May 3 at Triple A and his back issue appeared to affect his play leading up to the surgery. He hit .195 and had a .286 on-base percentage and .584 OPS in 22 games with Iowa.
Banner indicated the Cubs could look to get Davis more at-bats in the offseason, “but where that will be remains to be seen.” Arizona Fall League or winter ball could be options if Davis’ rehab process goes smoothly.