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Top Prospect Alert

Carlos Zambrano -- By Robert Sherry

The top pitcher in the Cubs system, this 18-year-old righthander could form a great 1- 2 punch with Kerry Wood if Wood can get back to his 1998 form and everything works out with Zambrano.

Standing at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, he was signed out of Venezuela in 1997. When the 1999 season started, he was one of the yongest players in the minors, but he was still able to go out every fifth day and do a fine job for Class-A Lansing in the Midwest League (13-7, 4.17 ERA, 2 CG, 153 IP, 150 H, 62 BB, and 98 SO in 27 games, 24 starts). He capped the season by doing well in the playoffs and showed that the long haul never wore him down.

Zambrano is a power pitcher who uses a mid-90s fastball (both two- and four-seam) and curve as his top two pitches with a developing changeup and a slider; the slider is the less developed of the two. If he can master just one of these and improve his curve a bit, he will be a No. 1 starter. At worst, you are probably looking at someone in the No. 2 range.

Because of his age, I was surprised when the Cubs decided to start him off at Double-A West Tenn, but he did well (3-1, 1.34 ERA) and now he has recently been promoted to Triple-A Iowa (0-1, 2.08 ERA). At this rate, it looks as if he could debut this season although I think it would be better to hold off on that till 2001. He is really doning a fine job in the minors and should make a big impact in Chicago.


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