Between extended spring training and Eugene, Jose Albertos pitched a little over 60 innings in 2017. That beats the four total innings he threw in 2016. And just based on those 4 innings, he skyrocketed up many prospect lists. I watched Albertos pitch every home start for Eugene in 2017. He worked on developing his curve last year. He struggled with it in July, but in 5 August starts, he had an ERA under two with 30 Ks in 23 innings that month.
Heading into his 2018 debut on Wednesday night in South Bend, I looked forward to seeing how much his curve developed from 2017. Albertos already has a low- to mid-90s heater that comes out of his hand very easy and a changeup that devastates young hitters as it dives down and in to righties, so adding a curveball to complement two very good pitches could catapult Albertos into another tier.
With temps in the upper 50s, I did not know how Albertos would react to northern Indiana weather. He came out to the mound dressed in a 3/4 length shirt under his jersey. He looked ready to go. Albertos got off to a great start striking out the first batter with a changeup that saw the hitter way out ahead of the pitch. And that was pretty much the highlight for the night.
Jose struggled to find the zone in the first inning. He nibbled when behind in the count, he nibbled when he was ahead. After a single and two walks, he was able to get a hitter to fly out to right for the second out but that ball drove in a run. However, Albertos was at 25 pitches at this point.
Not only was Albertos missing the zone, he just looked like his command was off; he rarely hit the mitt where it was placed. For his final batter, he first threw a wild pitch—his third of the inning—that resulted in a second run. He got a fly ball to end the crisis, but Albertos put up 30 pitches in the inning.
In the past, the Cubs have had a pitch limit in innings for young pitching prospects, especially at the lower levels. 30 pitches is the mark. When the second inning began, Albertos was replaced by Brendan King. Being that Albertos is 19 and has an injury history, he was removed as a precaution. He will have plenty of other starts this year. A first start in April is not worth risking an injury.
Then again, there was not much positive to take away from this debut. It’s over, but he can use this as a learning experience.
At just 19, Albertos can take away this lesson from his first low Class A start: He needs to trust his stuff. He has a hard fastball and a devastating change. If he mixes his pitches well, he is almost unhittable, as he was most of last August in Eugene. Last night, his fastball only seemed to be thrown down and away. He only threw 15 strikes out 30 pitches, not a glorious percentage.
His curveball was still about 2 feet short of the plate. He had this issue last year and it went away for awhile. I wonder if he is using a different grip, or the same grip? Either way, his development is going to be a work in progress, as will his season. He’s still just 19 and still needs a lot of game experience.
Hopefully, next time he can improve upon his lack of command and location and get back to building up his innings and his arm for this year.
Lead photo courtesy Rikk Carlson