A few injury/rehab notes to get in front of you from the minor leagues today, as a trio of notable young players are working their way back.
Cubs back-up catcher Victor Caratini was off to a scorching start this year when he broke the hook of the hamate bone in his left hand on April 11, and subsequently had surgery to have it removed. Taylor Davis has filled in admirably in Caratini’s absence, but the reality is that the total-value upside of Caratini – and the ability for Joe Maddon to more consistently rest Willson Contreras – means we should be hoping for a healthy return as soon as possible.
To that end, Caratini already successfully worked his way through a short rehab stint at Low-A South Bend, and is now at AAA Iowa:
— Tommy Birch (@TommyBirch) May 13, 2019
Caratini, who actually doubled in the at bat after his broke the bone, is apparently a hard-working fast healer, getting back into game action just three and a half weeks after the injury, and now feeling like he’s just a few at bats away (so to speak) from having his normal timing back (he’s ripped a couple balls today, apparently). There’s a chance that Caratini rejoins the Cubs as soon as this week on their road trip to Cincinnati and Washington.
Meanwhile, Caratini is joined at Iowa by another rehabbing Cub, though it’s a minor leaguer: formerly-top, and still-near-the-top pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay, who missed most of last year with a lat injury and then had the start of his season delayed by a side injury, will finally debut at Iowa sometime later this week:
Alzolay, 24, is one of the few Cubs pitching prospects who has reached the AAA level who clearly projects – in terms of stuff – as a big-league-caliber starting pitcher. The only thing that has held him back the last couple of years has been the injuries, though opportunities probably would have been an issue, too. It’s possible, if he’s healthy and cruising at Iowa come midseason, that the Cubs could lean on him for a spot start if a need develops, but it’s more likely that he would see his big league debut come as an extra arm in the bullpen at some point (he’s already on the 40-man roster). From there, he’d be a candidate to win a job in the rotation in 2020, if everything went very well this year.
Either way, he’s one of the few big arms in the upper levels for the Cubs right now, so I’m excited to see him get back to action.
Speaking of guys I’m excited to see get back to action, Nico Hoerner has missed a month now since taking a pitch off his wrist after a scorching start at AA Tennessee. While there was no fracture, clearly there was enough damage to give the Cubs reason to take it very, very slowly with his return.
The 21-year-old shortstop was the Cubs’ top pick last year, after which he tore up the Arizona Fall League (way above the level of what you’d expect for a late-first-round pick with barely any pro experience), looked great in Spring Training, and then got the very challenging AA assignment, where, again, he raked.
Cubs Assistant GM Randy Bush told Tommy Birch that, “Nico’s coming along fine. This has been more of a cautious rehab with him, just making sure that anytime your wrist, your hand is impacted, there’s been history where a lot of guys have tried to come back too soon from that where they think they feel good and then it lingers when they start playing.” Surely it’s the right approach with a prospect who was not going to contribute at the big league level this year in any case, though we as fans are itching to see him back in action. Dude was just looking so freaking impressive. It would be nice for the Cubs to know if he’s going to be a middle infield option at the big league level as soon as next year. For … planning purposes.