Some players are prospects the entire way through the pipeline. Some are signed as near after-thoughts. Adbert Alzolay was signed out of Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela for a scant $10,000 signing bonus in the 2012/2013 cycle as an 18-year-old. With baseball talent, sign and develop is a long-term strategy that is best when not rushed. Congratulations to Alzolay on his MLB debut Thursday at Wrigley Field.
His first assignment was in the now-defunct Venezuelan League, where Alzolay carved. The next season saw him in Mesa, with a three inning outing for Boise. Alzolay’s Arizona League wasn’t a tell of a future big league player. His 2015 in Eugene season was really good, but his 2016 was a bit ordinary in South Bend. 2017 was when Alzolay burst onto the collective scene. Under the tutelage of former Cubs pitching prospect Anderson Tavares, Alzolay was better than the Carolina League, earning promotions to both Double-A Tennessee and the Arizona Fall League. A 2018 lat injury may have prevented a call-up last season.
Now, healthy and productive, he's having his best stretch of success in two years, and against better competition. He has both the capability of a relaxed 94 to 97 and a repertoire. What you saw against the Mets wasn't so much of a fluke as a maturation process.
As usual, here's the caveat. Don't expect what we saw night one every night. Alzolay is a developing player. The best pitchers in the league can often get benefits from umpires not afforded to neophytes. Also, the players swinging the lumber are rather good. The strikeouts were very positive, but a few outs were tattooed, as well.
One of the nice things about rooting for the Cubs now is that Alzolay isn't the final available option. With his promotion, a spot is available in Des Moines, possibly for Tyson Miller or Cory Abbott. Moving them up makes a spot in Tennessee for Javier Assad or Paul Richan. As trivial as it might sound to be able to call a player up, having players ready to be challenged by the available spot is a sign of a healthy pipeline.
While this was intended as a piece for the day of his debut, time and space cluttered events. I don't have commentary to change, only adjust. That "working really quickly" thing you saw? Get used to it. The multiple-pitch arsenal? Welcome to enjoying it. Whether he heads back to Des Moines for any fine-tuning or not, Alzolay figures to be a low cost asset for quite a few years. Enjoy. I might pop over for Alzolay Day on occasion. He's the next, not the last.