Heading into the 2012 season, ESPN’s Keith Law ranked Arodys Vizcaino No. 14 on his top 100 prospects list saying, “he’s a three-pitch starter who has a history of plus control and just needs time and health to become a No. 1 or No. 2 starter.” Vizcaino has not thrown a meaningful pitch from that point forward and underwent Tommy John surgery a few months later. The Atlanta Braves traded the injured pitcher to the Chicago Cubs in 2012, and at this point the Cubs are just hoping Vizcaino can make it to their bullpen some time in 2014.
When reading scouting reports on Vizcaino, his stuff actually sounds similar to former Cubs closer Carlos Marmol. That may make Cubs fans squirm in their seat to think about, but a pitcher with Carlos Marmol’s stuff who can actually command his pitches is a scary proposition for opposing hitters. Vizcaino has a fastball that ranges between 92-96 and a hard, sharp curveball that has two-plane action and cuts down like a slider. According to Baseball America, Vizcaino also “made impressive strides with his changeup in 2011 to give him three solid offerings.”
With that kind of stuff and good command, it’s easy to dream on Vizcaino as a frontline starting pitcher, but that was before injuries wiped out his past two seasons. After previously tearing an elbow ligament in 2010 only to heal on his own, Vizcaino tore the same ligament in 2012 and underwent Tommy John surgery that spring. A few months later the Braves sent Vizcaino to the Cubs in return for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson. At the time this was seen as a shrewd deal by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer after Ryan Dempster had vetoed an earlier trade with the Braves that would have sent the Cubs Randal Delgado, a good but less regarded pitching prospect heading into that season. The catch, obviously, was the cloud surrounding Vizcaino’s recovery from injury.
In typical Cubs fashion, Vizcaino had a setback in his recovery and was forced to undergo arthroscopic surgery in May to remove damaged tissue from his elbow. Nearly a year later the Cubs are saying their goal is to have Vizcaino facing hitters at some point this spring. The upside with Vizcaino is still there to be an excellent late-inning weapon, but thoughts of him in a starting rotation have all but vanished.
The good news is that Vizcaino was able to make six appearances in the Dominican Instructional League this winter and was reportedly hitting 98 mph. If Vizcaino can prove this spring that he is healthy and ready to contribute, he will instantly become the Cubs’ best reliever and has the potential to be a shutdown closer for the next Cubs contender.