By Todd Johnson
Adbert Alzolay’s career as a Cub can be best described as a yo-yo. It began in the Venezuelan Summer League in 2013 as a starter where he put up a 1.07 ERA. The next year in Mesa in was not so kind. He had an ERA of over 8 in rookie ball. However, the next year at Eugene (as a reliever and piggyback starter), he was filthy again with a 2.04 ERA in a little over 50 innings. He struck out 49 and opponents batted only .149 against him.
When Alzolay arrived at South Bend in 2016, he was back starting. In April, it looked as though he straightened things out. He made four starts with a 2.82 ERA and struck out 16 in 22 IP while having a .177 batting average against. He followed April up with a pretty good May. Then June came and the wheels fell off. A 7.17 ERA showed a lack of command as the Midwest League adjusted to him and hammered him to a .350 clip. Ironically, despite getting roughed up nightly, he only walked six for the month. The issue that I saw was not command, but rather locating in the zone and getting his secondaries over. He tended to leave things up and out over the plate – a recipe for disaster. His ERAs in July and August were both under 5, but the fastball command he had in April was still not back yet.
With 2017 here, Alzolay remains a starting pitcher, but now at Myrtle Beach, the Cubs high Class A affiliate. The yo-yo, however, is now on the upswing.
Low to Mid 90s fastball
Hard to hit down in the zone
Can throw up to 4 pitches for strikes
Areas of Concern
Leaving it up in the zone
To date, Alzolay has made 5 starts. On Thursday the 27th, I actually sat and watched him start for the first time since last July. I came away impressed. He looked stronger as the game wore on. He was spotting his fastball whenever/wherever he wanted. His breaking ball was much tighter than I remember last year. In addition, he was throwing it inside to right handed hitters most of the night. I really like when a pitcher can throw in on the hands.
Alzolay pitched well for the night as he went 6 IP and struck out 3 without a allowing a run. He did not seem to get rattled with men on base. I also liked how he used all the strike zone and did not just sit and try and pound “down and away” all night. As of Saturday the 29th, Alzolay has a 2.49 ERA on the season He has struck out 21 in his 25.1 IP. The only concern is that opponents are hitting .253 against him. The key, so far, is that he is not walking many.
Changes this year
Spotting the fastball
Attacking the zone
I honestly think it’s just experience and physical maturation. Has always had the athleticism, ability to repeat, arm speed, an assortment of 4 pitches, and the knowledge how to use them. I think getting stronger just allows him to sustain his stuff longer now and he just gets better and better as far as his feel.
For now, I like where Alzolay is headed. I really do like his fastball. When he commands it, it is hard to hit. When he’s throwing 93-94 with his fastball, he’s a very likable prospect. If he can get into the 6th and 7th innings on a nightly basis, look out.
Photos by Larry Kave, Rikk Carlson, Eugene Emeralds