The Chicago Cubs are effectively paying Chris Volstad $18 million this season. That’s because, when they swapped a year of Carlos Zambrano for a year of Volstad earlier this Winter, the Cubs agreed to pay the difference in the pitchers’ salaries.
Even at such a steep price, there’s no guarantee that Volstad will be one of the Cubs’ five starting pitchers. There are statistical reasons to believe Volstad could put together a good year, and I’m fairly optimistic about his future, despite a muddied past. The big, 25-year-old righty is facing a crowded rotation competition, however, that features Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm already locked into three spots, and Travis Wood, Randy Wells, Jeff Samardzija, Casey Coleman, and Andy Sonnanstine, among other longer shots, duking it out for the final two spots.
But, Volstad’s already got at least one big supporter: his new pitching coach, Chris Bosio. From the Sun-Times:
In Volstad, the Cubs see a power pitcher whose potential barely has been tapped in 31/2 seasons with his hometown Marlins.
‘‘The upside of this guy is phenomenal,’’ pitching coach Chris Bosio said. ‘‘Being able to find young pitchers with that kind of size and that kind of stuff, that’s a needle in a haystack. The kid’s a beast out there. And he does fill up a doorway walking through a room.’’ …
‘‘I definitely don’t think I’ve pitched to my ability,’’ said Volstad, who has been one of Bosio’s most serious students in camp. ‘‘I think I’ve shown flashes of it, games here and there, and maybe a little streak here and there. But I haven’t put a whole season together yet, and I really think I can.’’ …
Despite having an imposing frame similar to Zambrano’s and borrowing Zambrano’s annual tradition of seeking a new start, Volstad seems nothing like Big Z. He’s almost conspicuously quiet, focused and keeps what Bosio calls an ‘‘internal burn’’ to himself.
‘‘This kid’s got a big arm, a lot of potential,’’ Bosio said. ‘‘Hey, we traded a guy that’s 40 games over .500 for this kid. Chris can only control what Chris can do. Right now, I’m very happy with where he’s at in spring and the way he’s going about his work. I can only imagine what the capabilities of his stuff are if we’re able to harness that.’’
It seems worth reminding ourselves at every turn that Volstad broke into the big leagues at just 21-years-old, after just a couple full seasons of minor league ball. He’s clearly still developing, and it’s great to hear how voraciously he’s trying to learn now that he’s come to the Cubs.
Volstad knows he doesn’t have a rotation spot locked up, and that drive to “earn it” can sometimes push a young player just enough past his own talent that everything clicks. Talent, alone, doesn’t get you very far in the bigs, and Volstad sounds like someone who’s eager to do everything else necessary to succeed.
And the good news is that Volstad already has the “talent” part in spades.