Chicago Cubs: Adbert Alzolay could follow Chris Sale’s career path
By Tim Stebbins
With no open spots in the starting rotation, prized pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay could begin his career with the Chicago Cubs as a valuable reliever.
As the Chicago Cubs work to develop a homegrown pitching core, Adbert Alzolay headlines a list of promising young arms. Fans hope he can follow a similar career arc to that of South Side southpaw Chris Sale.
Chris Sale was 21 years old when the Chicago White Sox drafted him 13th overall in the 2010 MLB June Amateur Draft. Just months later, he made his big-league debut – still just 21.
Sale appeared in 21 games that season, striking out 32 batters in 23 1/3 innings. He dominated his opposition, finishing with a 1.93 ERA and .185 batting average against. The next season, the lefty appeared in 58 games in 2011, finishing with a 2.79 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 71 innings. He also dabbled as closer for the White Sox, converting 8-of-10 save opportunities.
Alzolay’s 2017 success
The Cubs signed Adbert Alzolay, 21, in Nov. 2012 and he has quickly ascended the team’s minor league ranks. MLB.com ranks him as the Cubs’ top prospect and projects him to make his MLB debut in 2018.
Alzolay went 7-4 with a 2.99 ERA in 22 games (all starts) with Single-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee in 2017. Of course, the Cubs have a packed starting rotation entering the 2018 season.
Between Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, José Quintana and Tyler Chatwood, the Chicago rotation is set through 2020 and beyond. When Alzolay reaches the Major League club, he could provide a late-season boost to the Cubs bullpen.
Alzolay the reliever?
Ironically enough, the Cubs bullpen is also all but set for the 2018 season, outside of a right-handed reliever. Justin Grimm is the incumbent and therefore the favorite, but Shae Simmons and Dillon Maples could win the job as well.
Essentially, it is not out of the realm of possibility for Alzolay to take over the role of Grimm/Simmons/Maples. Easing into Major League Baseball as a middle-reliever would allow him to pitch low-pressure situations to build up his confidence.
Like Sale, though, the Cubs could then ease Alzolay into more high-pressure situations as he gains more experience. Between Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr. and Steve Cishek, the Cubs are deep in late-game relievers.
Alzolay could help Cubs like Sale helped White Sox
Of course, there will be a time when the Cubs’ bullpen is taxed and in need of a break. With Alzolay capable of pitching starter’s innings, he could relieve (no pun intended) Strop/Edwards Jr./Cishek as needed.
Ultimately, Sale joined the White Sox’s starting rotation in 2012 and the rest is history. He has established himself as one of the game’s most dominant starting pitchers, leading the MLB in strikeouts in 2015 and 2017.
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While it would be unfair to say Alzolay’s career will be identical to Sale’s, there is no harm in being optimistic. If he does follow Sale’s career path, Alzolay would be a force for the Cubs in some facet for years to come.