Righthander Adbert Alzolay almost sounds too good to be true. He’s a legitimate homegrown pitching prospect who has outlasted win-now trading cycles and stayed healthy enough to bubble towards the top of the farm system.
The Cubs hope Alzolay will be part of future rotations, particularly once Jon Lester approaches the end of his $155 million megadeal and Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana slowly move toward free agency.
Coming off a season where he went 7-4, 2.99 in 22 starts at high Class A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee, Alzolay looks like an obvious addition to the 40-man roster in what already feels like a winter of transition for the Cubs.
“We were kind of waiting for him to take that step,” said Jason McLeod, the senior vice president who oversees scouting and player development. “He was that guy who you would go in and watch and be like: ‘Man, why isn’t he dominating these hitters?’ Especially when he was in the Midwest League. But this year, he took that step.”
Alzolay, who signed out of Venezuela in November 2012, struck out 108 batters against 34 walks in 114.1 innings this season and then showed enough in the Arizona Fall League to be selected for the Fall Stars Game.
“The velocity ticked up—he was pitching at 94 (mph) and touching 97—but (what stood out was) just the aggressiveness with his fastball,” McLeod said. “It was almost like he had a presence to him: ‘I’m just going to come out and attack hitters.’
“He was throwing all of his pitches with intent, confident with all of them, showing a plus curveball, showing a plus changeup and he’s always had that work ethic. I think the mound presence caught up to the work ethic this year . . . It was a lot of fun watching him.”
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein expects Alzolay to begin 2018, when he will be 23, back at Tennessee and then work his way up to Triple-A Iowa.
“(He) is a really interesting, high-ceiling starting pitcher who, if he reaches his potential, will some day be one of five (starters), and closer to (No.) 1 than 5,” Epstein said. “He’s an exciting young kid with high character and electric stuff who’s got a great starter kit.”
Patrick Mooney covers the Cubs for NBC Sports Chicago