Cubs Minor League Camp Could See Three Prospects Begin to Break Out

This has been a long offseason spent waiting. The first few weeks of free agency went swimmingly, then were soon followed the Convention, but January into February turned into a funeral march. Now that the big league camp has begun, there are several things to look forward about when it comes to the minor league portion of Spring Training, which starts next week.

Most of the excitement revolves around some new faces and a few familiar players returning from injury, but the emergence of one or more relatively unknown prospects could really set the camp on fire. There are the obvious stories of Eddy Martinez, Dylan Cease, Will Remillard, and Eloy Jimenez. Throw in Ian Happ’s move to second base, Darryl Wilson’s athleticism, and Bryan Hudson’s new changeup, and Twitter will have plenty to talk about daily.

On the other hand, there will be over 150+ minor leaguers in camp, among them many not-so-obvious stories. Here are three prospects whose Spring Training performance could propel them into a breakout season.

1. Adbert Alzolay

Potential Affiliate: South Bend
Position: Relief Pitcher
Breakout Role: Starting Pitcher

This dude can pitch…we think. Heading into 2015, not much was known about Alzolay. You could find some stats on him, but that was about it. The 6 foot, 175 pound reliever struggled in his stateside debut in 2014 as a starter. In 2015, he shined as a piggyback starter at Eugene, throwing 53 innings and striking out 49 with a 2.04 ERA. Even better was his WHIP of 0.83 and the fact that opponents only batted .159 against him. Alzolay finished strong in 2015 too, striking out 15 in his last two appearances (11.2 innings).

Heading into 2016, will he a reliever or a starter? He’s heading for South Bend and I think his chance of starting is much better this year than last. The problem is South Bend will be loaded with both starters and relievers (as you will see in next week’s affiliate preview). I think his spring will dictate his year. It is clear that he is much more acclimated to the US after two years, though hitters don’t seem too well acclimated to his mid-90’s fastball. I am excited to see reports on Alzolay attacking hitters.

2. Kyle Twomey

Potential Affiliate: South Bend
Position: Starting Pitcher
Breakout Role: Starting Pitcher

I love what Kyle Twomey can do. He’s big, tall, gangly, and wiry, and his body looks like it going to fly apart when he pitches. There’s a lot there to distract a hitter. He had a good first stint as a Cub last summer at Eugene and I think he picks up right where he left off.

With the Emeralds in 2015, Twomey pitched in a limited role, striking out 22 in just 23 innings. He also walked 13. He appeared in ten games, six of which he started, but usually only pitched 2 innings. Armed with a decent fastball (88-94), Twomey can change speeds and use a slider and changeup for his other pitchers. At only 165 pounds, there is projection to add some strength to his game and maybe some more velocity.

I think he is a wild card and that the Cubs gambled on him because of his gangly physique. It may look a little awkward, but also gives Twomey the ability to deceive hitters.

3. Wladimir Galindo

Potential Affiliate: Eugene
Position: Third Base
Breakout Role: Left Field/First Base

He’s only 19 years old as of last November, but this can kid can rake. The problem is he can’t stay healthy. Playing at short-season Eugene will allow Galindo to explore his mammoth potential to drive the ball to all fields. He could play 3B, 1B, or OF and I am not sure where he ends up. Spring Training will give us a glimpse into what he can do and where he can do it.

Galindo is part of the vaunted 2013 International Free Agent class of Eloy Jimenez, Gleyber Torres, and Jen-Ho Tseng. He began his career in the Venezuelan Summer League at 17 and was leading the team in HR’s before an injury ended his season after 62 games. Last year, a wrist injury put him down after only 19 games, during which he had an OPS of .952 in just 19 games without a home run. He did return for instructs and did well in a limited role.

He has good size at 6’3” and 210 pounds, but I doubt he returns to third base. Instead, he will more than likely DH and transition to the outfield. What I like about Galindo is that, at only 18, he was driving the ball with natural power. He has some room to fill out and really develop the potential in that bat. I will be interested to see if the wrist injury has fully healed this spring. If it has, balls will be flying off his bat. He could even make an ascent to South Bend late this summer if all goes well.

I am sure there also will be other stories we didn’t see coming. Last year, no one foresaw Willson Contreras and Oscar De La Cruz busting out like they did. While Alzolay Adbert is a hot name now, there will be others who we did not foresee, and that’s one of the fun things about covering the minors.

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