Over the past two seasons, the Cubs acquired two former top fifty prospects in a trade for a veteran starting pitcher. One is third baseman Mike Olt, who we discussed last week, and the Cubs received in the Matt Garza trade. The other is right handed pitcher Arodys Vizcaino, who the Cubs received in return for Paul Maholm in mid-2012.
The Heights: As a 20 year old in 2011, Vizcaino pitched across three levels of the minors, High A through Triple A, and had a cup of coffee in the Majors. At every level but High A, he was very young compared to his competition. He excelled in the minors, pitching for a 3.06 ERA over 97 minor league innings in 26 appearances, 17 of which were starts. He also made 17 relief appearances in the Majors, and at least did not embarrass himself with a 4.67 ERA. Prior to the 2012 season, he was Baseball America’s number 40 prospect in baseball. The highest ranking he achieved was the 14th best prospect in baseball, which came from Keith Law. With three solid or better offerings, headlined by a 92-96 mph fastball and including a solid curveball and change up, Vizcaino has the stuff to be a top of the rotation starter.
The Depths: Vizcaino’s depths are a bit different than the other Cubs’ fallen prospects because he has not played since 2011, and his issues solely relate to injuries. Many in baseball were always concerned about Vizcaino’s durability, even at the height of his minor league success, and Vizcaino injured his elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery during spring training in 2012. Rehab setbacks kept him from pitching in 2013, although he participated in the instructional league over the fall, and reportedly is healthy and looks good. It is worth noting, though, that barring a significant injury that kept Vizcaino off the mound, it is unlikely that the team would say anything else.
Best Case Scenario: Vizcaino goes to Iowa to start the season and pitches well, likely out of the bullpen at the beginning of the season, but potentially getting some opportunities to start with some strict pitch counts later in the season. Either way, he pitches well, stays healthy, and moves up to the Majors at the end of the season, pitching well out of the bullpen. At that point, the Cubs must decide whether to try to stretch Vizcaino back out into a starter, or if they’ll try him in a late innings bullpen role.
Worst Case Scenario: Vizcaino hurts himself again and barely pitches, or doesn’t pitch at all. The next worst case scenario is that Vizcaino’s control suffers as he returns from elbow problems.