5. German Marquez (1,021 points, 39 ballots)
German Marquez entered the system just over a year ago thanks to a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. Panned by national writers and some Purple Row staff (myself included) at the time, Colorado's trade of outfielder Corey Dickerson and PuRP third baseman Kevin Padlo for reliever Jake McGee and Marquez now looks really good for the Rockies because Marquez broke out in 2016 in a big way (even though McGee had a career worst year for the big league club).
The 21-year-old righty had pitched well previously in the Tampa Bay system, but in 2016 he added fastball velocity into the mid to high 90s and complemented that pitch with two potential plus offerings. In 135 2/3 frames over 21 starts with Double-A Hartford against players that were on average 3.5 years older than him, Marquez was one of the better (and youngest) pitchers in the league. He posted a 2.85 ERA, 3.25 FIP, 1.16 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, and 2.2 BB/9 this season in that time with the Yard Goats — all positive indicators for a player thought very highly of by the Rockies front office when they acquired him.
The front office promoted Marquez to Triple-A Albuquerque, where in a short stint with the Isotopes Marquez held his own. Against players that were on average 5.7 years older, Marquez threw 31 frames over five starts with a 4.35 ERA, 8.4 K/9, and 1.7 BB/9. That success was enough to get Marquez a cup of coffee in the Show, where over six appearances (three starts) he hurled 20 2⁄3 innings with a 5.23 ERA and 4.26 FIP ball. The strikeouts were down (6.5 K/9) and the walks were up (2.6 BB/9), but Marquez still produced 0.2 rWAR for the big league club.
Marquez is a prospect with some serious helium given his performance in 2016. MLB.com jumped Marquez up to 73rd overall in minor league baseball (4th in the system):
Marquez has added strength and velocity since turning pro, with his fastball moving from 88-91 mph when he signed to sitting at 93-96 and peaking at 98 last season. It features more run than sink, so he'll have to keep it down in the strike zone at Coors Field. His curveball also has improved, giving him a second plus offering. His changeup has potential but is more of a work in progress.
Marquez has an easy delivery and the athleticism to repeat it, so he has little difficulty throwing strikes. He's still refining his command, which is understandable considering that he'll pitch the entire 2017 season at age 22. Some scouts believe he's a better bet to become a frontline starter than fellow Rockies right-handers Jeff Hoffman and Riley Pint.
Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs had Marquez 4th in Colorado’s system as well:
Marquez made his major-league debut at age 21 this year after ripping through Double-A. His fastball sits 92-95 and will touch as high as 97 or 98 at times. It features heavy arm-side run but can lack plane if Marquez drops his arm slot, which he does at times.
Marquez also has a plus curveball in the 76-81 mph range that has a slurvy shape to it but bites hard and has solid depth. A back-foot curveball is the best weapon Marquez has against left-handed pitching right now, as his changeup is still below average. But Marquez is just 21 and his delivery is loose and fluid so there’s likely more coming from the changeup. Marquez’s command elicits similarly bullish projection because of the delivery and athleticism and he’s already throwing plenty of strikes. He’s a relatively low-risk mid-rotation arm, an above-average major-league starter.
John Sickels of Minor League Ball also put Marquez 4th in the system:
Breakout season; fastball 92-96, along with above-average curve and improved change-up, throws strikes; seems like he deserves more attention than he’s received
A contrarian view comes from Baseball Prospectus, who placed Marquez 11th in the system:
Marquez had a quick rise through Colorado’s prospect and organizational ranks in 2016. He made it all the way to Coors, but the stuff is a little short compared to, say, Senzatela’s. There’s similar profile problems too. His velocity comes a little easier but he sits 93-95 as a starter and doesn’t hold it well in starts. The offering is pretty true out of the hand and lacks Senzatela’s deception. It could sit higher in short bursts with more effort in the delivery. His breaker also flashes plus, it’s an 11-5 downer curve in the low 80s. He gets tight break when he is on top of it, but it can show a bit of a hump out of the hand. His change is firm and he’ll slow down his arm to try and turn it over. It’s a major-league profile, but Marquez fits better in the pen, and it’s not an impact arm there.
So where does this leave Marquez entering 2017? He’s on the 40 man roster and still has two minor league options, which allows the Rockies to be flexible with his placement entering the year. Marquez is certainly a contender for a 2017 rotation slot, though given the current collection of arms the Rockies have assembled he’ll need to beat out Jeff Hoffman for a spot there on Opening Day. The Rockies are more likely to start Marquez in Albuquerque in 2017 to give him more exposure to the hostile offensive environments of the Pacific Coast League and to refine his arsenal.
After some skepticism from me at the time of the trade, the easy velocity Marquez showed on his fastball plus the development on his secondary pitches in 2016 have won me over. I rated Marquez 4th in the system on my list, giving him a 55 Future Value as a 2/3 starter in a big league rotation and a top 100 prospect in baseball.