With Kyle Hendricks on the injured list, the Cubs may deploy a trio of pitchers to fill Hendricks’ starts during what the team hopes will be a relatively brief injury absence for the right-hander. As president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told reporters (including the Chicago Sun-Times’ Gordon Wittenmyer) that the team was planning to use spot starters to give their veteran arms extra days of rest. Tyler Chatwood and Mike Montgomery could be two of the pitchers filling in, though the third could be pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay.
“Alzolay is on a real roll at Triple-A, and we’d been planning even before this to possibly give him a couple of spot starts at some point over the next month or so,” Epstein said. “Just to get his feet wet and also give our veteran rotation guys a little bit of a breather during a stretch in the schedule where we don’t have a lot of off days.”
Alzolay, 24, has a 3.09 ERA over 32 innings for Triple-A Iowa this season, with a stunning 12.9 K/9 and 7.67 K/BB rate. His only real flaw is a 1.1 HR/9, which stems from “extreme flyball tendencies,” as per his MLB.com scouting report. Despite some issues with the long ball, Alzolay is given credit for having a plus curveball and a plus fastball that sits in the 92-96mph range.
Though Alzolay has promise and has been at or near the top of the Cubs’ prospect charts for a couple of years, this could be more due to the fact that Chicago has promoted or dealt away many of their recent top minor leaguers. In overall prospect rankings, only Baseball Prospectus placed Alzolay in its preseason top-100 (sitting 95th), while Alzolay has yet to crack even the updated midseason versions of the MLB.com or Baseball America top 100, while Fangraphs has Alzolay outside of their top 125. Still, an injury-shortened 2018 season could account for his lack of notice, as a lat problem limited Alzolay to only eight starts last season.
It doesn’t seem as if Alzolay, if he is promoted, will necessarily be in line for an extended stint in his big league debut. Hendricks and Yu Darvish, however, are the only Cubs starters on guaranteed deals beyond the 2020 season, so a solid first impression could certainly put Alzolay in line for an extended look possibly as early as next season, depending on what happens with Cole Hamels’ free agency.