Not every prospect takes a straight line to becoming professional baseball player. For Myrtle Beach’s Brad Markey, the path to the minor leagues was an adventure in itself. Markey was selected by the Cubs in the 19th round of the 2014 MLB Draft after coming to the team’s attention while they were scouting then-catcher Mark Zagunis of Virginia Tech. It is not as if Markey was a throw-in or an afterthought; far from it, he was drafted on his own merits.
Currently, Markey is a reliever/piggyback starter for the Pelicans after beginning the year at South Bend. He moved to Myrtle Beach in early July, but getting to that point has not been easy.
Markey grew up in Maryland and attended C. Milton Wright High School, where he helped lead his team to the 2010 state championship and was named first-team all-state. Markey was also named an All-American by Louisville Slugger, was a USA today second-team All-American, and The Baltimore Sun named him Player of the Year. Markey signed a letter of intent to attend Georgia Tech University but he only saw action in six games during a freshman campaign in which he posted a 5.06 ERA. He decided to transfer to Santa Fe College, the first roundabout move in Markey’s career.
At Santa Fe, Markey threw 95 innings with 70 strikeouts and had a 1.33 ERA and was drafted in the 35th round in the 2012 draft by the Mets. He didn’t sign but instead decided to attend Virginia Tech University for his junior season – a second roundabout move.
Virginia Tech coach Pete Hughes, said the following about Markey’s skills:
“His velocity might not be as good as some others, but he’s the type who lives for the moment. He can throw the fastball, or he can just move on to secondary pitches. He’s the guy you want in the game in the seventh inning. He can be unblemished out there.”
In his junior season, Markey was inconsistent, posting a 4.93 ERA in 100.1 innings while striking out 75. When he returned for his senior season, however, things changed. Markey put up an ERA of 3.61 in 82 innings and struck out 57 batters. In addition, he caught the eye of the Cubs scouts who came to view fellow teammate, catcher Mark Zagunis.
Markey is the perfect example of a player whose stats may not have stood out to you as much as his actual pitching did. Hughes said, “Markey is a strike-throwing machine.” Markey throws a fastball in the 89-92 mph range, mixing in a 77-82 mph curveball, which Zagunis said in college was his best pitch. Markey also has a changeup in the 80-84 mile an hour range. He works the fastball and curve for most of the game until he thinks he needs to mix in his change to keep hitters off balance.
As a Cub, Markey first thought he was going to be a reliever. Because of his workload in college, he was used as a reliever last year at Boise for 13 games and in the Arizona rookie league for 2 games. In 2015, he stayed behind for extended spring training before arriving in mid-May at South Bend. In 12 games at South Bend, Markey was a reliever for 11 and started 1. Combined, he had a 2.48 ERA.
When I first saw Markey this year at South Bend, he struggled early in his role as a setup man. After three outings his ERA was up to 4.70. That was back on May 25. When James Farris, the former closer in South Bend, was promoted to Myrtle Beach, Markey began to step up his game. In June, he began turning heads, posting a 1.10 ERA for the month in 8 appearances.
At Myrtle Beach so far, Markey has made two appearances and thrown 10 innings. He has struck out six and has a 0.80 ERA. He was originally used as a piggyback starter for Paul Blackburn, who just came off the disabled list. Tonight, he gets to start on his own. Thus far, Markey seems to have made the change to Myrtle Beach with ease. Manager Mark Johnson said the following after his first appearance for the Pelicans:
“Well-pitched game from Markey; he came out and threw strikes. He had his [curve] working after the second inning and I saw a lot of good things out of him.”
At 23 years old, Markey’s roundabout journey to the major leagues is not uncommon. What is uncommon this year is every outing seems to get better and better. His command of all three pitches in the strike zone keeps hitters off balance. He is not going to strike out a lot of batters, but he is going to keep his defense on its toes. It should be interesting to watch him continue to develop quickly.
Depending on the obstacle presented by the given situation, Markey is sure to find a way around it.