In a rotation that features a trio of free agents-to-be, the emergence of right-hander Adbert Alzolay is of paramount importance to the Chicago Cubs. Looking to 2022, the staff will have just two returners: Alzolay and ace Kyle Hendricks.
The biggest knock on the organization over the last decade has been on its seeming inability to develop homegrown pitching. Alzolay is looking to change that, building on a breakout 2020 campaign with continued success this year.
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We’ll see Alzolay again against San Diego next week, which will be a major test for the 26-year-old. But, at least to this point, he’s emerged as an imposing presence in a rotation that’s loaded with veterans with lengthy resumes.
He turned in another impressive start on Friday against the Cincinnati Reds, tossing 5 2/3 scoreless innings to lead the Cubs to a fifth consecutive victory. Since allowing four earned in his first start of the year, Alzolay is yet to allow more than three earned runs in a start – giving some consistency to the pitching staff every time he takes the ball.
"“For me, it was a great day on the mound,” Alzolay told MLB.com. “I mean, I got in trouble. I can say that for the first time in a long time now, being in trouble the first three innings, but for me it’s just part of this game and part of my development. Be able to get in those situations and then be able to get [out of] those situations. So I feel that it’s a huge step forward for me in that aspect.”"
Chicago Cubs: Improved control has been key for Adbert Alzolay
Last year, even though he put up an impressive 2.95 ERA in four starts and a pair of relief appearances, he still walked too many batters. But he’s slashed that 5.5 BB/9 mark from a year ago and has put up a more than palatable 1.8 BB/9 this time around. Paired with his swing-and-miss stuff, Alzolay has really started to put it all together this season.
That walk rate ranks in the 88th percentile of qualified pitchers and an above-average spin rate on his breaking ball and a plus chase rate has helped him not only get more opportunities, but make the most of them and cementing himself as a key part of the organization’s long-term plans.
Under team control through 2027, Adbert Alzolay has the makings of a highly valuable, cost-controlled starter. If he can keep his walk rate under control like he’s done early in 2021, the Chicago Cubs can feel good about what he has to offer now and for years to come.