Just as Jesus Tinoco was "that other guy" in the trade that sent Troy Tulowitzki to the Toronto Blue Jays and returned top prospect Jeff Hoffman and flamethrower Miguel Castro over the summer, so may German Marquez be known in baseball circles as of Thursday afternoon when Corey Dickerson and Kevin Padlo were shipped off to the Tampa Bay Rays for Jake McGee and "that other guy."
But not yet 21 years old (his birthday is next month), and having already spent an entire successful season in High-A, Marquez may not be a bad get for "that other guy." Sure, power-armed starters in High-A often become relievers at high minor league levels, and many will wash out before ever reaching the big leagues, let alone before enjoying a sustained career. Though as Matt Gross pointed out earlier this morning, Marquez would likely slot into the lower third of the Rockies' top 30 prospects, and is certainly no slouch for his age and level.
Scouting German Marquez
The Tampa Bay Rays signed Marquez in July 2011 as a 16-year-old out of San Felix, Venezuela. He made his professional debut the next year in the Venezuelan Summer League, and then progressed a level each season through 2015 when he finished up as a 20-year-old at the High-A Florida State League.
Marquez was the Rays' 25th-best prospect, according to MiLB.com, and Baseball America spoke very highly of him after a strong start in the Florida State League last summer. For what it's worth, in a brand new update to the Rockies' top 30 prospects list on MLB Pipeline, Marquez has just been ranked 17th, ahead of some notable pitchers on which we are very high here at Purple Row.
He brings a three-pitch offering to his starts: a hard (92-95 mph) fastball, a curveball, and a changeup. He was added to the Rays' 40-man roster this winter to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. Marquez's stats:
A few notes on Marquez: The last two summers, in the Midwest League and the Florida State League, he has been on average three years younger than his competition. Two solid statistical years indicate that he's not that fazed by playing older competition, and is theoretically fairly far ahead of the curve for his age group.
Standing out above the rest in his statistical breakdown ought to be the steadily declining BB/9 rates. Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich has a type, as we've seen time and again this offseason, and very bluntly that type is pitchers that throw strikes. (Sounds so obvious, right?) Marquez has steadily and significantly improved in that realm throughout his career.
If you're not sure what to make of Marquez's declining K/9 rate in High-A last summer, some food for thought: first, he was a 20-year-old starting to climb into the high minors, and considering how well he adjusted across the season as a whole, it might be worth it to be patient and see if his strikeout numbers catch up to his development this summer.
Alternately, we can look at the case of fellow Venezuelan hurler and current Rockies farmhand Antonio Senzatela; the righty is just a month older than Marquez, and Senzatela experienced dismal strikeout rates at Short Season-A Tri-City and Low-A Asheville in 2013 and 2014, before whiffing hitters at a much better pace in 2015 at High-A Modesto. Pitchers develop in the minors (that's the point!) and since Marquez is so young and has seen sustained success in other parts of his game, there's cause to think he could improve upon missing bats as he continues his minor league journey.
That's not to say he's a perfect comp to Senzatela, of course; Marquez doesn't have the same ceiling and wouldn't be rated nearly as highly on our PuRPs list. But it is to say at the same age and level, Marquez ought to be entitled to the optimism of growth in 2016 just as Senzatela was—and was then rewarded for—in 2015.
Only time will tell if Marquez can develop out pitches this summer, presumably at Double-A Hartford, and even Ken Rosenthal's reporting seems to indicate this is a youngster still raw in professional baseball who needs opportunities to continue his development:
Rival scout on German Marquez: "91-96 with plus cmd, above-avg true CB. Always one of youngest in league, doing well. Just needs innings."— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 29, 2016
On the not-so-good side, Marquez was on the Rays' 40-man roster, and the trade necessitated his addition to the Rockies' 40-man on Thursday afternoon. That bumped lefty reliever Christian Friedrich, who was designated for assignment to make room. I'm not torn up about Friedrich being taken off the roster, but Colorado must now use a spot on Marquez, who is at least a full season away from the Major Leagues, and really, maybe closer to two.
I spoke to Mat Germain about Marquez on Thursday night. Germain, a staff writer for our fellow SB Nation site DRays Bay, has been watching and evaluating the righty in the Rays' organization for several seasons. Some of Germain's analysis on Marquez:
On Marquez's stuff: "For stuff, he has a smooth and almost effortless looking delivery, he works at 92-94 MPH, and he can reach 96 MPH when he has to. He has a great looking curveball with bite that works in the high 70s, and a change up that should grade as average."
On mechanics: "The big change everyone should know about is that he's now using a bigger hip turn in his delivery, instead of using a straight leg kick, something that seems to have benefited him in 2015. His last starts of the season showed off how well his work has done."
On his ceiling: "Some pegged him to become a reliever due to his reliance on an outstanding fastball with life and his strikeout curveball, but now he's added a much improved changeup that keeps hitters off balance. He's so confident in it now that he projects as a strong workhorse number three starter. Now, some say he doesn't have a strong enough build to remain a starter. Having said that, he held up really well last season, so I really don't see it being an issue yet. But still, to give detractors their due, he could at worse be a dominant reliever."
On his status in the Rays' system: "I had him ranked 8th in the Rays' system and part of the reason was that his floor is so high. An MLB team could use him out of the pen as early as 2016. While he should get the benefit of a full season in Double-A in 2016, promotions of young pitchers in 2015—such as Roberto Osuna in Toronto—prove that MLB teams are no longer shy about putting their young guys under pressure sooner than usual. With that in mind, it's likely that an MLB team would have picked him up in the Rule 5 draft. In fact, I would have been shocked if he hadn't been selected if available."
On his repertoire: "It depends on what you mean by best pitch. If you mean the one he uses to get people out, it's the curveball. But what he's been criticized for, or what coaches have noted, is that the sequence of pitches he's used hasn't been optimal for his repertoire, so there's room for improvement there. With a better game-caller behind the plate, it's possible the Rockies will see a significant improvement in all of his numbers. Marquez is young enough that he could definitely add to his repertoire. With three speeds to work with already, all he needs is polish and good instruction."
On the quality of competition in the Florida State League: "Generally speaking, the FSL can be considered pitcher-friendly. Normally, hitting prospects will have a hard time maintaining their Low-A numbers in the FSL. However, I do believe that becomes a non-issue when we consider Marquez was a full three years younger than the average High-A player. The important things to note are that he was healthy and good enough to throw 139 innings in High-A at 19, and will now likely challenge a full season of Double-A at only 20. Simultaneously, he's been able to reduce his walk rate and become more aggressive about remaining around the plate. With the adjustments he made in 2015, the Rockies likely see a lot that they like, and they likely envision him as a rotation talent. Otherwise they wouldn't have traded so much to land him."
Germain sure is right about an effortless delivery, and even though the camera angles don't lend themselves to perfect evaluation (not to mention the sample size of pitches here is quite small), it sure does look like Marquez has pretty sharp arm-side run to his fastball to go along with a tight breaking ball.
Marquez's best comp on the Rockies
It's tempting to compare Marquez to Senzatela, if only because both are young, power-armed right-handed Venezuelan starters who find themselves on the big league club's 40-man roster and will now be starting 2016 most likely in Double-A Hartford. It's tempting to compare Marquez to Tinoco, because both were add-ons in a trade, rather than the focus, and both profile as fringy right-handed pitching prospects who could see their stock rise in the Rockies' organization depending on how well they pitch next summer. You could compare Marquez to Alex Balog, too, as both have shown off similar walk and strikeout rates: They're around the plate and in command while nothing extremely overpowering or special is happening, and yet, they both still get the job done.
All those comps might be valuable, but with 20-year-old kids who have yet to pitch in Double-A, any comp is really just a crap shoot. If Marquez falls somewhere among those three guys, at least in this stage of his career, great! Let's roll with that, see how he does in Hartford or wherever, and we'll evaluate him a year from now when—most optimistically—he's knocking on the door of the big leagues in some role. Until then, let's worry about seeing his strikeout rates increase as he acclimates to the high minor leagues, and pray for consistency in command as he's increasingly shown throughout his career.
What to expect in 2016
Who knows! You never know with minor leaguers, you know less with pitchers, and you know even less with guys who are just going to turn 21. But time is on Marquez's side, he has the arm and stuff to do something with his career, and even a hiccup in 2016 wouldn't be the end of the world. Yes, he's on the 40-man roster, and that's a special consideration, but starting him at High-A Modesto or more likely Double-A Hartford, and evaluating him as they go along, gives the Rockies another young, strong, projectable arm with which to work this summer and beyond.
It's probably a stretch to imagine him in the Major Leagues this year, even with what Germain noted about the Rays protecting him in the Rule 5 Draft, but stranger things have happened and if he'll already burn an option when he gets assigned to the minors out of spring training, well, you never know. Forget about the two Major Leaguers in the deal (hard to do, I know) and the Rockies just flipped a redundant short-season level third baseman in Kevin Padlo for an intriguing back-end starter in German Marquez who might be a year away from the Major Leagues. All things considered...
A note on Kevin Padlo
This seemed as good a place as any to drop a quick note on Kevin Padlo, the Rockies' minor league third baseman heading to Tampa Bay along with Dickerson. Padlo, a fifth round draft pick out of southern California in 2014, was pegged for a similar career trajectory as Nolan Arenado and Ryan McMahon before him: have a monster year at rookie-level Grand Junction (Padlo did that), get bumped a level and skip short-season ball (Padlo did that), and hit the ground running at Low-A Asheville the next year.
Padlo did not do that. The 19-year-old went just 12-for-83 (.145) in his first six weeks with the Tourists to begin 2015, and was quickly demoted back to the Boise Hawks. To his credit, Padlo crushed the ball in Boise, slashing .294/.404/.502 with 22 doubles, 9 home runs, 33 stolen bases, and 45 walks in 70 games. He earned himself nods as a midseason and postseason All Star in the Northwest League, along side an award as a short-season All Star from Baseball America. For a kid who's not yet 20, that's a great place to be right now.
But for the Rockies, who saw Arenado and McMahon both successfully adjust to Low-A quickly, Padlo's development stunt may have pushed him back in the organization. Couple that with top prospect third baseman Tyler Nevin who now may make that same jump to Asheville this coming summer, and perhaps the Rockies felt like this was the time to move Padlo if he wasn't needed in the organization.
That doesn't mean he's a bad player—far from it, in fact. He has speed, plays an athletic game, and has proven a very good eye at the plate for such a young hitter. All those attributes are things the Rockies need; they just need pitching more. If we evaluate Thursday's trade as two deals in one, in a way—Dickerson for McGee, and Padlo for Marquez—it's a smart move on the Rockies' part to add a starting pitcher rather than keeping what in all likelihood would have been a redundant third baseman. Nevertheless, best of luck to Padlo, a true class act, with the Rays' organization.