Coming into the season, it was possible that Adbert Alzolay wouldn’t make the rotation for the Chicago Cubs, but so far the decision to include him in the mix seems to be paying off. Despite the rotation’s disastrous performance so far, Alzolay has been rather steady, if somewhat limited in his starts. His slider has been a deadly weapon against hitters, but it’s his maturity on the mound that’s making the young righty so effective.
Alzolay showed off that maturity Tuesday against Cleveland. He didn’t walk a single batter in his six innings of work and he showed an important change in approach that can make him so deadly. After surrendering a home run to Jose Ramirez early on, he remained solid and aggressive, getting himself through the sixth even with a two-run shot from Cesar Hernandez. He looks like a complete pitcher this year and he’s only getting better.
Alzolay’s maturity and willingness to adjust gives the Cubs a solid starter
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Looking back at his best start of the season, Alzolay’s shown just how effective he’s been at adjusting throughout the game. He started that game with Atlanta with his slider out of whack, yet he didn’t let it bother him and fixed the issue as he pitched. That ability to workshop pitches mid-game and correct problems as they come up is indicative of his maturity as a pitcher and it’s paying dividends for him.
While Alzolay’s only pitched to a 4.50 ERA, his xERA has him at 3.78 and he has a stunning WHIP of 0.885 thus far. He’s giving up harder contact than you’d like as he ranks near the bottom of the league in terms of exit velocity given up, but he’s also sporting a strikeout and walk rate on the upper half of all pitchers. This also coincides with his aggressive approach on the mound that he demonstrated in Cleveland.
Alzolay’s poise on the mound makes that approach work. He doesn’t seem to lose control or pitch more cautiously when he’s in a jam or after he’s been burned. It’s a big step in the right direction that shows he’s overcoming the hesitancy of youth and is instead establishing himself as a quality big-league arm. Add on top of that a slider that’s seeing an xSLG of .286 and you have a really promising young pitcher.
With a few more games under his belt, it seems like the numbers could continue to straighten out for Alzolay. Even if they don’t, he’s still got a better approach indicative of acclimation to the big leagues and a slider to rival the best in the league that he can continue to improve on. Next, he has to limit hard contact, but we’re starting to see the pitcher many of us envisioned as he rose through the Cubs’ farm system.