The big, expected news of the day was the promotion of shortstop/second base prospect Nico Hoerner, who – along with Miguel Amaya, Brennan Davis, and Brailyn Marquez – is in the upper-most tier of the Cubs suddenly rising Minor League system.
And as we’ve already seen thanks to the recently announced lineup for tonight, Joe Maddon is wasting no time getting Nico in there (as he does), starting the 22-year-old rookie at shortstop, batting sixth. Of course, in order for him to officially be in a big league lineup in September, he has to officially be on the 40-man roster. So you can more or less call that lineup the confirmation that the 40-man move has happened.
The wrinkle, however, is that the Cubs 40-man roster was full, which means his addition must come alongside another move, which was designating reliever Randy Rosario for assignment. He will likely clear waivers, and the Cubs may try to retain him on a minor league deal for next year.
But there was other roster news today, as well. Specifically, the Cubs have optioned Adbert Alzolay, for reasons they’re identifying as not wanting to add to his innings total this season – which may well be true, but is also a convenient excuse.
Alzolay has thrown only 81.2 IP this season (which obviously isn’t a lot for a starting pitcher) and has, indeed, thrown many more than that during a single season in that in the recent past (114.1 IP in 2017, 120.1 IP in 2016), but that’s not the entire story. He also dealt with injuries in 2018 that limited him to just 39.2 IP. Put differently, Alzolay has already more than doubled last seasons inning total, which isn’t nothing. He also dealt with a biceps issue recently, and that’s not nothing either.
But also … do I think he could keep pitching in the big leagues this season and be fine? Yeah. Almost definitely. But do I really think he’ll be able to make a legitimate difference over his replacement as *solely* a reliever over these final 2-3 weeks? Nah. I really don’t. And, hey, if resting him makes him stronger and more effective in 2020, it’s all the better.
Of course, that’s why the reasoning is all “true.” It’s convenient, because the Cubs will also save a little big league service time on Alzolay, who would’ve accumulated it through the end of the month, even if he never pitched. It seems pretty clear at this point that he was mostly called up as length for the Cubs’ pitching corps in case Yu Darvish’s injury was more serious or didn’t abate.
In any case, Alzolay is effectively being replaced by James Norwood, who last pitched for the Cubs on May 24th, though he’s been up and down (without pitching) a few times since. In the meantime, he’s been hanging out at Triple-A Iowa, where he’s racked up an insane 81 strikeouts in just 57.2 IP (33.8 K%). He has been fairly wild during that stretch (12.9% BB rate) and doesn’t get many ground balls, but he’s held batters to a .193 average. He is among the quality “stuff” arms at AAA Iowa.