First we had the Anthony Rizzo watch. Then he got called up.
Then we had the Brett Jackson watch. But he has struggled to make consistent contact.
Most recently it's been the Josh Vitters watch. But despite his improvement, the Cubs seem inclined to leave him in AAA to work on his defense (15 errors with limited range) and plate discipline.
The next Cubs rookie we see could be the flame-throwing Alberto Cabrera. He's already on the 40 man roster and while the Cubs are looking for starters, the bullpen could use a boost as well.
Keith Law was impressed this spring (insider only),
The Cubs threw reliever Alberto Cabrera, who has one of the most electric fastballs I've seen from a prospect in a long time -- but doesn't have much else. That fastball was 95-97 for two innings with plus-plus sinking life, and he was around the plate with it a lot more than you'd expect given its movement. His changeup was dead-straight and very hittable, while the slider is short but not sharp; one of those two pitches has to come along this year for him to be a viable bullpen option, but he can probably go further than most relievers with one pitch because of its velocity and life.
The Iowa camera angle is often from above and behind the batters box, so it's difficult to get a good gauge on his slider. What I can see, however, is that batters are missing it, often lunging when it breaks low and away. He doesn't throw it as often as the fastball (why would he?), but it seems to have been an effective out pitch for him as well.
From a statistical point of view, Cabrera's numbers are ridiculous.
He has walked just 10 batters in 45.2 innings between AA and AAA while striking out 54. That translates to a 10.63 strikeout rate vs. a 1.97 walk rate. He has yet to walk a batter since being promoted to Iowa. His ERA there so far has been 1.86 despite giving up what seems like more than his share of seeing eye grounders (.444 BABIP against). I think superior defense at the MLB level will help Cabrera on those weakly hit groundballs. His FIP/SIERA over AA/AAA was at 2.36 before Sunday's outing and it probably dropped after another strong performance. His ERA is also 2.36 overall (2.25 in AA, 2.91 in AAA), so Cabrera isn't getting this done with luck. His numbers are legit.
The Cubs could use some help in the bullpen beyond James Russell and Shawn Camp. Cabrera could offer a nice change of pace to those finesse type relievers and perhaps a closer to groom behind Carlos Marmol.
I imagine the temptation might be to compare him in terms of stuff to Rafael Dolis and there are similarities in terms of size (6'4") and stuff (mid to high 90s sinking fastball, slider). To me, Cabrera has a leaner, more athletic build and he may have even more sinking action on this two-seamer than Dolis. But the biggest difference between the two is in terms of command. Cabrera can put his pitch where he wants to much more consistently. That may have to do with the superior athleticism and the ability to repeat his delivery better. Cabrera's stuff also has more swing and miss to it than Dolis has ever had at any level -- perhaps, again, because of better movement, and almost certainly because of better location.
Cabrera has flown under the radar but quietly has become the guy I consider to be the Cubs top pitching prospect, at least among those who have actually pitched this season. Ideally, you'd like your top prospect to be a starter, but the Cubs can use all the arms they can get. And another bullpen arm certainly wouldn't hurt.