The first pitch, a fastball, came in at 94 mph. I thought, “That’s a good first pitch.” Add in the fact that Des Moines was not the warmest place in the universe last night, I could live that with speed all night.
Then the second pitch, another fastball, came in at 95. My head began to bob up and down with approval. “This just might work.”
The third pitch…96. “Oh, yeah!” He’s back.
Two pitches later, and Adbert Alzolay had retired the first batter he faced in Triple-A.
The rest of the night went very well for Alzolay. He continued to throw 94-96 with his fastball through six innings of two hit ball. He took a no-hitter into the sixth before giving up a home run and a single. Alzolay struck out six for the night and walked just two. He commanded his curve well as it had more of a loop to it than when I first saw him in Eugene in 2015.
But it was Alzolay’s change-up that devastated hitters. Coming in 84-85 mph, it had some movement down and toward the left batter’s box. Combined with the velocity difference, it was difficult for the hitters for the Nashville Sounds to time up. Of the 18 outs Alzolay got, six were strikeouts, six by ground-outs, and six fly-outs – a very fair night indeed.
What I liked most about Alzolay’s performance was that he looked like Adbert Alzolay. The fastball was where it was supposed to be, he worked quickly, and he threw strikes…a lot of them. In his six innings he threw 75 pitches, 50 in the zone. That’s a pretty good rate.
Overall, it was only one start but a very good one at that.
While Alzolay is becoming the most well-known pitching prospect in the system, he still has a ways to go to be ready for the majors. I told Evan Altman last fall that I could see him in the ‘pen as early as August this year. While Alzolay has dazzled the past year, he still has only pitched 38.2 innings above High-A. That is not a lot. Alzolay will need a body of work and experience against more talented hitters this year before he gets to come to Chicago.
Yes, it is OK to be very excited about what he is doing. It also helps to realize that this is just the first step of many that he needs to take this year. He might get up the stairs quick, go up two, back down one, or many variations could take place. Still, in the end, he is getting closer to the top.
*Both cards made from photos by Dylan Heuer