Alzolay, Amaya named to Futures Game roster

Catcher to Cubs righty: 'Hopefully you stay up there. Don't come back.'

June 29th, 2019

CINCINNATI -- exchanged text messages with Cubs catching prospect Miguel Amaya on Friday morning. Chicago's rookie pitcher wanted to congratulate Amaya on being selected to the Futures Game and Amaya offered similar notes of support to Alzolay.

Amaya had another message, too.

"He was like, 'Hopefully you stay up there. Don't come back,'" Alzolay said with a laugh.

Ranked as the Cubs' No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Amaya is slated to play for the National League in the Futures Game on July 7 at Progressive Field in Cleveland. While Alzolay was named to the same roster, the right-hander's participation is currently up in the air. Alzolay is currently in the big leagues and is preparing for a start against the Pirates on Monday.

If Alzolay remains in the Majors with the Cubs, he will likely be replaced for the Futures Game over the All-Star break. Prior to Friday's game against the Reds, the 24-year-old pitcher said he was honored to be picked for the annual prospect showcase, but he is fine with missing the event if it means he is still up with the Cubs.

"For sure. That's the whole point. You want to stay here," said Alzolay, who is ranked fourth on the Cubs' Top 30 prospects list, per MLB Pipeline. "I'm happy that they selected me to go to the Futures All-Star Game, but the goal is just to stay here right now, help the team."

Cubs manager Joe Maddon chuckled when told that Alzolay preferred to stay with Chicago than head to Cleveland for the All-Star event.

"I like that," Maddon said. "He has to consider that an honor, to be considered one of the best young players to come out right now. That's great. I know that's fun to read about, but I'm not really focused on that. If it ever were to happen, that's fine. If it doesn't happen, it's just great that he had been named."

Through two appearances with Chicago, Alzolay has allowed two runs -- both via solo home runs -- with nine strikeouts and six walks in 8 2/3 innings. In the wake of his first MLB win, lefty Jon Lester left a bottle of Armand de Brignac ("Ace of Spades") champagne at the rookie's locker. On the case, Lester wrote, "Congrats on #1," and signed it.

Alzolay said the acceptance from the veterans in the clubhouse has helped his confidence and comfort level. The young right-hander said he has been following Jose Quintana to learn about his routine and sitting next to Kyle Hendricks during games to discuss pitching strategy.

"Sometimes you are the rookie and all that, and you feel like a little shy," Alzolay said. "But, I think the good thing is I've been here the past few years hanging out with these guys during Spring Training. So, when I got here, everyone was happy. Everyone was talking to me like, 'Hey man, keep doing your job. You're doing good.' It's pretty awesome to be accepted by the team."

Worth noting
• The 20-year-old Amaya is currently with Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach and has hit .207 with five homers and a .692 OPS through 55 games this season. The catcher has shown good on-base ability (.342 OBP) and is a highly-regarded defender. Entering Friday, Amaya had caught 30 would-be basestealers (34 percent).

"I did get to see him a little bit [in Spring Training]," Maddon said. "I got to talk to him a little bit. He's got a great way about him. He's big and strong, and I thought I felt self-awareness about him. He thought the game through well. Everything about him was pretty much as I had been told. Give him a little time, man. This guy's going to be really good."

• With roughly a month until the Trade Deadline, Maddon was asked if he felt his club could benefit from adding some offensive help. Maddon said he was more concerned about getting guys like Albert Almora Jr., David Bote and Addison Russell on a roll versus left-handers. Entering Friday, the Cubs ranked ninth in the NL in wRC+ (95), 10th in OPS (.755) and 13th in strikeout rate (24.9 percent) vs. lefties.

"That's what really stands out," Maddon said. "We have guys with good track records against lefties that we have to get going."

• Per Fangraphs, Russell entered Friday ranked second in UZR/150 (14.1), fourth in Defensive Runs Saved (four) and fourth in defensive runs above average (2.8), among second basemen with at least 180 innings. Maddon said that above-average defense carries a lot of weight for him, even with Russell being 17 percent below average (83 wRC+) as a hitter right now.

"The defense has been great," Maddon said. "I love when those two guys [Russell and Javier Baez] are in the middle. My God. When we're up the middle with Willson [Contreras] and those two -- Javy and Addi -- and then you've got Albert in center field, that's a nice feeling."

• Hendricks (10-day injured list, right shoulder) and Carl Edwards Jr. (10-day IL, left thoracic strain) are scheduled to throw bullpen sessions on Saturday.