We need a much, much bigger sample to get to any conclusive points, but there is one way in which I like what we’ve seen so far from the Cubs: if things continued this way, it would certainly make incontrovertibly clear some of the paths the Cubs need to take as an organization. The last 18-24-36 months have left the Cubs with a lot more questions than answers, and sometimes the games answer those questions for you. I’d much rather get clear answers – even if bad ones – than keep farting through the limbo we’ve seen seen with this team for a long time. Or maybe that’s just me in the moment and feeling pretty singed by the horrific offensive start.
• Although you once again have to flush most of last night’s game, there were two crystal clear bright spots: Adbert Alzolay’s dominance and Justin Steele’s debut. Alzolay’s line got mucked up by the quick pull with the bases loaded in the 6th and the bases-clearing double allowed by Andrew Chafin, but you have to look at those first five innings (and heck, how the bases got loaded in the 6th really wasn’t that bad – grounder through the shift, 3-2 walk, and one solid single). Alzolay went heavy on his two-seamer/sinker, the other pitch he added last year, and it was working so well. Then he started busting out the slider (the pitch he added last year that everyone talks about) and it was whiff after whiff after whiff. Incredibly, he threw just six four-seamers and one changeup. That was it for his other pitches.
Adbert Alzolay, Wicked 87mph Slider…and K Yell. 😱 pic.twitter.com/4yvf7jkp5c
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 13, 2021
• Keep in mind, when he was coming up, Alzolay was ticketed as a bit league starter because he had three big-league caliber pitches: the four-seamer, the changeup, and the curveball. And he basically did not throw them at all in his most dominant-looking big league outing. My mind is a little boggled, in a good way. Notably, his outing against the Brewers last time out featured a full mix of his five pitches, with his four-seamer being the most heavily featured. I really think he and the Cubs are figuring some things out about how to best use his wide mix of pitches, and I also think he and they are realizing that just because he added the two-seamer and the slider only last year, that doesn’t mean they aren’t already his two best pitches.
• Alzolay breaking out as a solid three in the rotation (or better!) would probably be more impactful for the health of the organization going forward than any sell trade they could make at the deadline. So keep it going, Adbert.
• Although the control came and went a bit in Steele’s debut, he covered 1.1 scoreless innings, pitched around an error, and struck out two. All in all, it doesn’t get much better when you take that ball for the first time in the big leagues, and it was a quick flash on how useful Steele could already be out of the big league bullpen.
.@J_Steele21's MLB debut:
1 1/3 IP
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 13, 2021
• Steele, 25, he has has had a long road to his big league debut, having been an over slot draft pick out of high school back in 2014, and then getting hit with the ole Tommy John thing just as he was establishing himself. He came back strong after the surgery, turned even more heads in his partial 2018 season before getting the call to AA to be in the Smokies’ rotation for 2019. There, he dealt with flukey injury stuff, managed just 38.2 innings, and then the shutdown came in 2020. All the while, though, the hope has persisted for him to return to a starting role because there aren’t too many pitchers with a plus 95-mph four-seamer, a plus curveball, and a slider some have said is the best in the entire Cubs organization. That hope, the injuries, the pandemic, and control issues are why we haven’t seen Steele debut until last night, and why you don’t necessarily see him discussed that often in the next wave of starting pitching prospects. But post-TJS, there has never been a question about the his stuff. It’s big league stuff, without any question or reservation.
That's a similar movement profile to Brad Hand's slider, which Hand has rode to being one of the better relievers in baseball for the last half-decade.
He'll have to command it, but you can see why those in the Cubs org hype up that pitch.
— FullCountTommy (@FullCountTommy) April 13, 2021
• If things go right for the Cubs over the next few years, given the big draft philosophy change about three years ago, and given the massive player development changes a couple years ago, we could be in for a run of getting to enjoy homegrown outings like this for a while. *IF* things go right …
• Speakers, projectors, belts, soaps, and kitchen stuff are all among your Deals of the Day at Amazon today. #ad
• Jedd Gyorko was affirmatively good last year, so I wonder if he just wanted to move on, wanted to take a one-year hiatus because the offers weren’t there, or if the league saw something they really didn’t like going forward:
Jedd Gyorko was one of the Milwaukee Brewers’ best players last season and is now a manager in the new MLB Draft League after going unsigned in free agency. https://t.co/PUxXFAgGx8
— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) April 12, 2021