In Spring Training, the majority of the early hype went to reliever Arodys Vizcaino, two years removed from Tommy John surgery, and once again elevating that fastball velocity into the upper-90s. Given his long recovery, his youth (just 23), and his other elbow procedure last year, the Cubs were determined to take it very easy with such a potentially valuable long-term asset.
That is to say, despite the hype, Vizcaino was cut early from big league camp, and was eventually sent to sunny Daytona* to begin the process of working his arm back into big league shape. The early returns have been excellent.
First, there are the numbers (small sample size alert in the extreme): six innings, one earned run, four hits, two walks, and six strikeouts. That’s all pretty much exactly what you’d hope to see from Vizcaino right now.
And then there are the eyes-on reports. Check out this great read from Sean Kernan at the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Daytona pitching coach Ron Villone describes Vizcaino as having “lightning in his arm,” and says the arm strength – in terms of where he needs it to be for upper-90s velocity – is there.
Vizcaino is still working on his command (a long layoff will do that), and he’s still limited to pitching only once every three days. It’s going to be a while yet before we see him in Chicago, but it sounds like he’s got a great attitude about the process (and is even helping in the learning/development process for some of the younger players). Seriously, read the Kernan piece. Really makes you feel good about Vizcaino’s future, assuming he can stay healthy.
With big arms like Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, and Hector Rondon already in the bullpen, and guys like Neil Ramirez and Armando Rivero (among others) waiting in the wings, the Cubs will have a whole lot of power arm options in the pen over the next few years.
*(Fun aside: despite having pitched in the big leagues three years ago, despite being on the prospect radar for a half decade, and despite pitching at High-A only because of the controlled, temperate environment, Vizcaino is still 0.4 years younger than the league average age in the Florida State League, according to Baseball Reference.)