Adbert Alzolay is a top ranked Cubs pitching prospect. Since signing as an international free agent in 2012, he's worked his way up through the system at a decent clip, getting the call to the show in 2019. While not considered to be a blue chip prospect, he was ranked 95th on Baseball Propectus's pre-2018 list. He figures to factor into Cubs rotation plans for 2021, after making some adjustments and a taking a few steps forward in 2020. Today, we'll take a closer look at the player, so you know what to expect for next year.
His profile from Brooks Baseball reads as such:
His fourseam fastball results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers' fourseamers and has slightly above average velo. His slider sweeps across the zone and has some two-plane movement. His sinker is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers' sinkers, generates fewer whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' sinkers, has well above average velo and has slight armside run. His curve has little depth, is slightly harder than usual, results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' curves and has slight glove-side movement. His change generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' changeups, results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers' changeups, is slightly firmer than usual and has slight armside fade.
According to their charts, Alzolay throws 5 pitches:
Fourseam fastball: He threw it half the time in 2019. then 30% of the time in 2020. Averages 94 mph.
Sinker: New in 2020, used it about 21% of the time. Averages 95 mph
Changeup: Thrown about 8% of the time. Averages 85 mph
Slider: New in 2020, thrown 27% of the time. Averages 83 mph.
Curve: Thrown more in 2019, 15% of the time in 2020. averages 80 mph
In 2020, Alzolay appeared to have learned two new pitches, the sinker and the slider. He went from a three-pitch pitcher to a five-pitch pitcher. He doesn't throw especially hard, but he's got good movement and speed difference on his pitches. Example:
Alzolay has mainly been a starter in his 7 seasons in the minor leagues, starting 84 out of 105 games. He's pitched in 491 MILB innings in those 105 games, so he figures to average between 5-6 innings per start. He's a strikeout pitcher, averaging 8.2 K/9 in the minors, then 11.2 in MLB. Walks can be an issue, with a MILB walk rate of 2.7/9, then 5.9 in the big leagues.
When giving up contact, his MLB numbers look like this:
Line drives 26%
Ground Balls 38%
Fly Balls 36% (infield fly 17%)
When Adbert is good, he is missing bats, not walking hitters, and inducing weak contact by ground ball or pop up. He doesn't pile up elite strikeout numbers yet, but might be able to if he keeps developing that slider. When Adbert struggles, it is usually because of wildness, and giving up sharper contact that can turn into home runs. If he's pitching with less than his best stuff, I'd worry about him being able to outthink hitters and get away with it, at least so far.
With some of his adjustments and a partial year, it is still very difficult to know exactly what kind of pitcher he will be. He's shown plenty of potential in the minors thus far. Perhaps most importantly was seeing the new pitch and adjustments he made in 2020. That figures to be a great sign of maturity and development, as he hopefully becomes a productive bottom of the rotation starter in 2021.