Is The Cubs’ Adbert Alzolay A Prospect On The Rise? Don’t Be So Quick…

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Cubs have sold a lot of their assets (as well as graduated a few others) over the past few seasons, as they built a World Series champion and have an eye towards a second.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that the cupboard is barren, though the names may not be well known.  One example is right-handed pitcher Adbert Alzolay, who has no name recognition but may be the team’s top prospect.

Alzolay isn’t a new name, having signed out of Venezuela in 2012, but he’s now coming off a career year:

  • High-A (81.2 IP) – 2.98 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 8.60 K/9, 2.42 BB/9
  • Double-A (32.2 IP) – 3.03 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 8.27 K/9, 3.31 BB/9

It was a nice step forward in his strikeout rate (7.7 K/9 over his minor league career), though he continued to show strong control (2.3 BB/9).  There’s a lot to like, with a fastball that MLB.com described as:

“Alzolay has gotten stronger and is doing a better job of using his lower half in his delivery, which has resulted in improved velocity. He’s now operating with a 92-95 mph fastball as a starter, topping out at 97. He also gets some running action on his heater, which makes it difficult for hitters to barrel.”

Of course there’s a reason that he’s a relative unknown, despite the impressive stuff, as there are numerous questions hanging over him:

Size – He’s listed at about 6’0” and 180 lbs., so there’s a good chance that he ultimately lands in the bullpen

Home Runs – While they weren’t an issue last season, he posted a 37.7% groundball rate at High-A and 33.3% at Double-A (0.72 GO/AO between the two levels); those types of numbers could lead to home run issues as he continues to advance

Secondary Stuff – Rich Wilson of Prospect 361 noted he saw a “really nice curve ball” and MLB.com has also seen promise with the pitch noting his “hard curveball has depth and shows signs of becoming at least a solid second offering”.  He needs to continue to develop that pitch, as well as get his changeup up to par if he wants to stick in the rotation.

Coming off this type of season Alzolay is going to start to garner more attention, but there is also a lot of risk involved.  It’s not hard to find similar prospects and most see his upside as a mid-rotation starter, at best.  It seems far more likely that he settles into a bullpen role, and that could get him to Chicago as soon as 2018.

Could he ultimately develop into a lights out, late inning weapon?  It’s possible, but hardly a given.  At this point he’s a high risk, moderate reward prospect and should be lumped in with the numerous other hard throwing pitching prospects as opposed to anything more.

Current Grade – B-/C+
Upside Grade – B

Sources – MLB.com, MILB.com, Fangraphs, Prospect 361, Baseball Reference

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