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Cubs prospect retrospective: Carlos Marmol

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Marmol was lights-out for a time as Cubs closer. What was he like as a prospect?

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The next in my looks at Latin player development looks at a former Cubs reliever in Carlos Marmol. Whether your memories of Marmol are generally good or antacid-based, he’s a prospect that deserves a closer look.

Marmol’s first Dominican League season lasted one inning of one game. In 2002, he pitched an inning, surrendering one hit, walking a hitter, and fanning one. He also committed a balk. Through his season in the Arizona League, Marmol was either a catcher/outfielder, or dabbling as a two-way player.

In 2003, he returned as a primary starter. Nine of his 14 appearances were as a starter, and his numbers were rather positive. In 62⅓ innings, he surrendered 54 and fanned 74, and walking 37. He surrendered five home runs that season. Minor league game logs for minor league games from 2003 don’t exist for the Dominican League, but his innings totals look about right. An organization nowadays would be happy to have eight or ten similar statistical bunches (prospective pitchers are as much numbers as people, seemingly) to send off to Florida or Arizona for extended spring training every season. Or, at least, three.

His innings seem a bit high, depending on the length of his relief appearances. (Benjamin Rodriguez led the two Cubs DSL teams in innings this season with a very similar 64⅔ innings.) Teams now rarely ask for any more than five (or a maximum of six) from a Dominican League starter. Nine starts times five put him at 45, leaving 17-and-change for his relief stints. When you consider the point of the DSL, and that teams have 35 players on their roster, there is no need to look for more than six from a DSL starter, ever.

His numbers are really about the same as what a team ought to get from a reasonably decent first- or second-year DSL starter. Having two fully-functioning DSL sides gives the Cubs plenty of shots at more Marmol-type additions.

Upon arriving in the states, Marmol entirely skipped short-season ball. That would be an oddity these days, as teams are more committed to “developing the entire player” than used to be the case. That said, Jen-Ho Tseng skipped directly to the Midwest League from international play. That would be a relative comp.

In Lansing, Marmol’s numbers were far better than they’d been in the DSL. He fanned 154 in 154⅔ innings, but his hits per nine were down to 7.6 from 7.8, He only walked 53. He was tagged for 15 homers. In all, Marmol had a very good Midwest League season overall. The 154 innings for a player that young would be considered too much now, but such is life and learning.

Marmol would split his 2005 campaign between Daytona (Florida State League) and West Tennessee (Southern League). His 14 starts at the higher level were very representative for a player about two years his younger to his opposition.

Marmol would repeat the Southern League the next year as a starter in 2006, and his numbers were much improved. After a pair of appearances in Iowa, he was off to Chicago, where he would serve initially as a starting pitcher. He started seven of eight appearances in Iowa in 2007 before being off to Chicago for good.

***

The Dominican League is a tool, as with any other aspect of player development strategy. When top players survive a Dominican League season healthy and successful, it puts them on the path for contributing at the Arizona League level, hopefully sooner than later.

It isn’t that one specific player is going to blast through successfully. It would be nice if those sorts of things were easy to determine, but they aren’t. Watching the Dominican League is about watching twenty names, hoping that three break through to the upper minors. Perhaps it happens. Perhaps it doesn’t.

Taking a glance at Marmol’s progression through the Cubs pipeline should be another hint that “those players” might eventually be on national television. That some will be is what has me looking forward to the 2019 DSL season.