Name: Adbert Alzolay
Age: 20 (3/1/1995)
How Acquired: Signed as free agent on Nov. 28, 2012, by scouts Hector Ortega and Julio Figueroa.
Status: Rule 5 eligible after the 2017 season
There wasn’t a mad rush of international scouts to the home of Adbert Alzolay when he turned 16 with contract offers. As a matter of fact, the Cubs didn’t sign the Venezuelan until after he turned 17 and only a few months before the Cubs fielded their first team in Venezuela in several years.
His professional debut on May 15 was no reflection on what the rest of the 2013 season would bring as the right-hander walked three, gave up three hits and allowed two unearned run in two innings. Over his next 65.2 innings, he would only issue seven free passes and set 60 hitters down on strikes. Alzolay made 12 starts for the V-Cubs, finishing the year at 5-3 with a 1.07 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP, both tops in the league. He averaged 8.2 K/9 and only 1.3 BB/9. In close to 200 plate appearances, right-handers hit .177/.210/.258 with 6 BB and 54 K.
His performance earned him a trip to spring training in 2014 and when the Boise Hawks broke camp, Alzolay was on the 25-man roster. His stay in Boise only lasted five days and after tossing three innings of one-run ball in his Northwest League debut, was returned to Mesa. Alzolay struggled in the Arizona Rookie League, allowing at least one earned run in each of his nine outings and ended his first season stateside with a 8.51 ERA in 24.1 innings. Throw in a 1.73 WHIP and a .298 BAA and the future for the youngster didn’t look very bright. On the plus side he did fan 26 hitters.
After a solid spring and continuing to impress at extended, Alzolay shook off his 2014 season and headed back to the Northwest League for a breakout season. He didn’t allow an earned run over his first three appearances (three games) including a pair of starts. After surrendering two runs on three walks and a hit in an inning of relief on July 11, the right-hander only allowed one neared run over the next 22 innings, which included six innings of no-hit relief on July 30 that earned him NWL pitcher of the week honors. Just when you thought the rigors of extended innings were getting to the righty (10.1 IP, 8 H, 5 BB, 7 ER) he finished off the 2015 campaign with a career-high nine-strikeout outing in six innings on Aug. 27 and then topped that, fanning 10 on Sept. 3 in 5.2 frames, earning the win in both games. His 2.04 ERA in 53 innings was tops on the Emeralds roster among regulars and sported a team-best 0.83 WHIP and .159 BAA.. He fanned 49, issued 15 free passes and surrendered five homers in 12 games.
Armed with a fastball that tops out in the mid-90s, Alzolay only stands six-foot, but the Cubs will give the Venezuelan a chance to make it as starter before moving him to the bullpen. While he only made three starts in Eugene, he did go into the fifth inning in each of his last eight appearances. The Cubs have used a six-man rotation in recent years in Low A, so expect Alzolay in the mix for a spot in South Bend’s rotation. His performance last year caught the attention of Cubs management as he’s been mentioned by the front office among the up and coming pitching prospects in the organization. I’m looking forward to seeing Alzolay on the mound in the Midwest League this summer.