Cubs show they’re focused on the future with Adbert Alzolay decision

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

This weekend, the Chicago Cubs roster really took shape in dramatic ways. We’ll get into all that in the time leading up to Opening Day on Thursday. For now, let’s focus in on the starting rotation – and the team’s decision to name Adbert Alzolay the fifth starter heading into the regular season.

Second-year skipper David Ross had his hands full with the decision. Alzolay faced stiff competition from veteran Shelby Miller, who looked good in camp, as well as Alec Mills, who threw a no-hitter last summer. But in the end, it’ll be Alzolay who opens the year in the rotation.

"“He was extremely happy when I told him the good news,” Ross told “Making that Opening Day [roster] and getting that news is big, and Adbert was fired up. It was nice to be able to deliver that news to somebody that you see put in real work.”"

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Alzolay looked sharp against the Dodgers earlier this week, showcasing a sometimes overpowering mix of pitches. His approach and velocity offers a stark contrast to what hitters will see from the rest of Chicago’s starters – a gameplan built around inducing weak contact.

Last season, the young right-hander impressed, overcoming a high walk rate to post a 2.95 ERA across four starts and a pair of relief appearances. He ranked in the 92nd percentile in xBA and 95th in xSLG – positive signs the Cubs hope he can build on heading into 2021.

Cubs hope Adbert Alzolay breaks out

Alzolay is one of the youngest players on this team at just 26. With several years of control left (he won’t hit free agency until after the 2026 season), the Venezuelan-born hurler has the opportunity to become an integral part of this pitching staff for years to come.

If you look at his fellow rotation mates, very few project as a long-term answer. Jake Arrieta is on a one-year deal and in his mid-30s coming off a trio of lackluster seasons filled with injury. Trevor Williams, who looked really good this spring, is on a one-year ‘prove it’ deal and Zach Davies is in his final year of team control.

So really, it comes down to Opening Day starter Kyle Hendricks and Alzolay, which makes Chicago’s decision to let the young right-hander go out and prove himself this season critical for the organization’s long-term outlook.

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