Every time Chicago Cubs pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay comes up, which is a quite a bit these days, I think back to Theo Epstein’s end-of-the-year press conference after the 2015 playoff run.
Here’s what I wrote up at the time:
A fun prospecting bit, as Epstein mentioned a group of six 20-year-old starting pitchers that could emerge as impact types next year, and he named them by name: Dylan Cease, Carson Sands, Justin Steele, Bryan Hudson, Adbert Alzolay, and Oscar De La Cruz. Five of those names should jump out at you – the first three were the Cubs’ million-dollar high school arms from the 2014 draft, Hudson was the Cubs’ third rounder this year, and De La Cruz was the breakout Eugene Emeralds starter this year who got a lot of attention at the end of the year. Alzolay, on the other hand, has not been discussed nearly as much, despite a 2015 season that saw him post a 2.04 ERA with solid peripherals. He worked out of the bullpen for much of the year, which probably kept him off the radar a bit, but that appears have been mostly about limiting his innings, rather than developing him as a reliever.
Fast-forward to today, and Alzolay might be the most discussed Cubs pitching prospect in that particular group, particularly now that Cease has been traded and De La Cruz cannot seem to stay healthy.
There’s a great read at Cubs.com on Alzolay, who has been pitching in the Arizona Fall League this year, competing against some of the best prospects in baseball, and continuing to develop his changeup. The article gets into his background, his development, and his game preparation. If you want to get to know one of the Cubs’ best prospects (Luke ranked him third in the system, behind only Jose Albertos and Oscar De La Cruz), the article is worth a read.
Alzolay, 22, reached AA last year after a steady climb from Rookie Ball in 2013. His results this past season, split between High-A and AA, were the best of his young career, and he’s also improved his velocity as he’s developed. His fastball now sits in the mid-90s, and there were frequent reports throughout the season of him hitting 97, 98, 99 mph at times.
Once his wraps up his time in the AFL, Alzolay will find himself added to the Cubs’ 40-man roster, since he is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this year. From there, he’ll rest up and get ready for Spring Training, where he might see a fair bit of action with the big league club. He likely starts the season back at AA for a bit, and then makes the leap to AAA in short order. There is a non-zero chance he contributes at the big league level in 2018 in a pinch, but he shouldn’t be counted on just yet to slide into the rotation.
Still, it’s nice to see the Cubs with a high-caliber starting pitching prospect at the AA/AAA level. It’s been a while.