Chicago Cubs Can’t Be Too Cautious With Arodys Vizcaino’s Recovery

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Without a shadow of a doubt, right-hander Arodys Vizcaino is the Chicago Cubs‘ top organizational pitching prospect, but don’t expect the team to rush the 22-year-old Dominican back from his 2012 Tommy John surgery. Though his recovery is on the right pace, we won’t see him in Chicago until around midseason or later, as manager Dale Sveum has already concluded that Vizcaino will not be on the opening day roster when the Cubs break camp. With a young guy who has suffered such a serious arm injury early on in his career, you can’t ever be too cautious.

However, Vizcaino did throw a successful 25-pitch bullpen session today before the Cubs played their fourth game of Spring Training against the Colorado Rockies. It’s not a lot of pitches for it almost being March, but any sort of positive news about him is great news.

If he can recover and show success with the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate in Iowa, while maintaining his health, he could wind up as a very valuable piece of the Chicago bullpen. Though some are still convinced that Vizcaino can start at the Major League level, his history of elbow issues suggest that he may not be able to hold up in a starting rotation over the course of a full season. On top of that, his arsenal of power pitches make him a guy more suitable for “shut down” situations in the later innings of a ballgame.

Before the Tommy John surgery, he was throwing his fastball in the 93-95 mph range, though he can get it up there to around 97. According to Jim Callis of Baseball America, his fastball may not even be his best pitch because his curveball can be so disgusting.

It’s those dangerous pitches, along with his swift progression through the system, that made Vizcaino the Atlanta Braves‘ top pitching prospect before he was sent to the Cubs in return for Paul Maholm in a deadline move last season. In 2011, Vizcaino, just 20 years old at the time, rose from Single-A to the MLB all in one season.

In 17 games out of the Braves’ bullpen that year, Vizcaino pitched fairly well for his first stint in the bigs at such a young age with a 1-1 record and a 4.67 ERA in 17 games. If it weren’t for the ligament tear in his elbow that he suffered in Spring Training, he would have, more than likely, been the Braves’ guy in the seventh or eighth inning if he didn’t earn a spot at the back end of their rotation.

So there is definitely reason to be excited for his comeback, but it would be wise to be patient with the amount of time it takes. If Vizcaino returns to his 2011 form (though his arm should be even stronger if his elbow doesn’t present any more issues), he could be the Cubs’ closer to start the 2014 season.

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