In 2016, pitcher Jose Albertos, then 17, seemed to appear out of nowhere to shoot up several prospect lists. Like an apparition, just as quickly as he appeared, he disappeared. After making his only start of the year in Mesa, Albertos was shelved after just 4.1 innings and 7 Ks. But in that limited time in extended spring training and the Arizona Rookie League, it was enough to make many evaluators giddy.
Now that 2017 is almost over, Albertos has made seven starts in Eugene with a 2.64 ERA and has flashed quite a bit of promise with 37 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings. He can throw anywhere from the low to mid 90s because he usually sits 91 in the beginning of the game and increases velocity over the course of the game, sometimes up to 97 miles an hour. His curve is in the low 80s, and his changeup is a thing of beauty at around 78 miles an hour. Watching him pitch this year, he looks like he’s pitching to contact most games. Then, you check the box score when he’s done and he strikes out a little bit more than a batter an inning at 10.86 per nine innings.
Between Mesa and Eugene, he will end up with almost 60 innings. Add in 15 1/3 innings from extended spring training, and that puts him at 75 innings for this year. The expectation for a major league starter is to throw 200 innings. A fourth or fifth starter might get by with 160 to 180. Albertos, at just 18, is a long way from being ready for the majors. He still has to traverse four more levels just to get to Chicago.
While he does have one to two more starts this year, I am really looking forward to what he can do next year at South Bend and/or Myrtle Beach. Here are three things that I have been impressed with and look forward to seeing more of in 2018.
1. A Short Memory
While he is susceptible to the big inning, he does not let these distract or bother him. On Tuesday night this week, he threw 26 pitches, three of them were wild, but somehow he only gave up one run. He came out in the second inning like the first never happened. Nine pitches later, he was sitting back on the bench.
2. A Finished Product
He is far from one. You can tell every start what he is working on. A lot of times, it’s the grip on the curveball as they often find dirt before the plate. Other times, it’s moving the ball around the zone and trying to pinpoint a fastball on the outer edge. I think for the first two or three starts at Eugene, I didn’t see him throw his vaunted changeup once. Then, after missing two starts, he started throwing it in all it’s glory. While it is magnificent, I can see why he kept working on the curveball.
3. Letting It Loose
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t feel like he is really just let it rip this year. I think everything has been very much controlled. His approach come across as very cautious and measured. It is easy to see why the Cubs would be handling him with in a way to be preventative of injury, but at some point the training wheels have to come off. I know that sounds extremely strange to say for someone who throws 91 to 97, but I think the goal for him this year has been to improve the curve and to strengthen the arm by throwing 60 to 75 innings.
I think Albertos is the top prospect in the system. And I don’t think it’s really close. With his current floor as a top of the rotation type starter, there’s really no one who is close to him in terms of talent and potential. His ability to stay healthy this year only strengthens my belief about his talent. I am sure others prefer Oscar de la Cruz or Adbert Alzolay, but I don’t think anything compares to the fact that Albertos basically has two plus pitches now and is working on a third plus pitch. That’s a huge difference in talent the other prospects cannot match.
Lead photo courtesy Eugene Emeralds