What could this Chicago Cubs prospect bring to the big league bullpen?

(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) /
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A lot has been made of Chicago Cubs prospect Adbert Alzolay of late, but a different Iowa Cubs hurler just took home PCL Pitcher of the Week honors.

It’s no secret – the Chicago Cubs need to shore up their bullpen as the first half enters its final weeks. Theo Epstein improved the group in a big way with the signing of free agent closer Craig Kimbrelbut there’s more work to be done.

An external addition of sorts seems likely – particularly in the form of a lefty presence – but we can’t underestimate the role guys currently with either Double-A Tennessee or Triple-A Iowa could play down the stretch. The latest example of this? Adbert Alzolay, who has dominated at Iowa, potentially making his big league debut later this week in lieu of injured starter Kyle Hendricks.

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Alzolay’s current I-Cubs teammate, Alec Mills, is turning things around with the Triple-A club after a tough start to the year, as he earned Pacific Coast League (PCL) Pitcher of the Week honors last week. The right-hander allowed just two earned runs in 12 2/3 frames (a 1.42 earned run average), walking four and striking out nine.

We got a very brief glimpse of Mills last season on the North Side, as he started a pair of contests and made five relieve outings for the Cubs. All told, he pitched better than a quick glance at the book might lead on. In his 18 innings of work, Mills pitched to a 2.49 FIP and 1.000 WHIP, averaging north of 11 punchouts per nine in the process.

Still, we haven’t heard much about the 27-year-old to this point in 2019 – but it’s not hard to figure out why. In 10 starts and a lone relief appearance, Mills carries an unsightly 5.33 ERA and .302 opponent batting average with Iowa this season – and his 1.56 WHIP doesn’t do him any favors, either.

But, on the heels of last week’s PCL Pitcher of the Week honors, Mills looks to be turning the corner in a rather dramatic way. Across his last four starts, the right-hander is perfect, going 2-0 with a 1.90 ERA spanning 23 2/3 frames, according to the organization.

With guys like Alzolay on the brink of cracking the big league roster and much bigger names making their way through the system, it’s hard to envision Mills as anything more at the Major League level than a bullpen piece. That being said, Chicago will definitely have opportunities for a lot of these guys – especially if the arms they expected to be big parts of the plan continue to falter.

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For now, it’s a first step – but it’s definitely encouraging to see Mills clearly figure something out and get back on track. Come late this season, if he can keep this up, he could give the Chicago Cubs a shot in the arm.

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