Goodbye Core Four (or Big Four, as I preferred). Hello Sexy Six.
Cubs GM Jed Hoyer tacitly endorsed the Sexy Six yesterday when he discussed AAA prospect Arismendy Alcantara with the media, downplaying the idea of there being just four core prospects in the system, and calling Alcantara underappreciated (Cubs.com). I heartily agree, which is why there should be six guys mentioned in the same breath right now at the top of the Cubs’ system: Javy Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Kyle Schwarber, and Alcantara.
And Alcantara seems like the one fans will see first in Chicago.
Although Hoyer wouldn’t commit to a call-up this year for Alcantara, he did say that the 22-year-old shortstop by trade is opening eyes, and playing quality center field when he moves around. Otherwise, Alcantara has been playing second base to accommodate Baez at shortstop.
On the year, Alcantara – who was recently named the PCL’s hitter of the week – is hitting a robust .310/.350/.546 at AAA. Were he doing that while playing shortstop at age 22, he would be getting press as a top 20/30 prospect in all of baseball. But, because of the vagaries of prospect hype and positional versatility, you don’t really hear that kind of talk (though Jason Parks has hinted that, when BP’s midseason top 50 prospect list drops next week, Alcantara could be VERY high on the list).
That is all to say, right now, Alcantara is a stud easily worth of mention with the Cubs’ other five top positional prospects.
So, when will we see him Chicago? This year seems likely, but maybe not for another month or so.
Positionally-speaking, it’s not as if any particular spot needs to be opened up for Alcantara. His highest and best value to the Cubs – assuming it isn’t as a trade chip – could come in a super utility role. He’s been playing second base and center field most recently at AAA Iowa, but he can play shortstop, and likely other positions as needed. Thus, if and when he comes up to the big club, there doesn’t have to be a defined spot opened up for him.
That said, I think there will probably eventually be a defined spot opened up for him. Emilio Bonifacio’s ill-timed oblique injury makes him largely untradable in July, but the Cubs could get some hits on guys like Darwin Barney or Justin Ruggiano. If one or both is moved by the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31, it’s possible the Cubs will simply say that second base or center field is Alcantara’s to man the rest of the way.
In part for that reason, and for roster transition reasons, it does seem most likely that Alcantara will get the call at some point in early August. He is already on the 40-man roster, so there’s no concern there in eating up a spot for him all Winter – he’s already got it. Nor is there concern about using an option year, because he’s already using it.
In terms of big league service time, you’re less concerned with trying to wait until early to mid 2015 on Alcantara for a few reasons:
- Although he currently projects to be a valuable big league piece, he doesn’t necessarily project to be the kind of potential superstar about whom you’ve very worried about things like team control in 2021 or Super Two status.
- Because he’s still so young (22) and is learning a new position as part of his skill set, it’s not a lock that Alcantara will be called up in August, and stay up in perpetuity. He might be optioned at some point, or start at AAA in 2015, etc., making attempts to calculate service times expectations now futile.
- As far as I can tell, Alcantara was not a huge bonus baby signing in 2009, which means he hasn’t already banked a ton of money in his career. He may, therefore, be amenable to a pre-arbitration extension, mooting the issue of team control after six years. (A caveat on that: service time and team control still matters even for guys who are possible extension candidates, however, because the amount of control a team has will impact their negotiating position. On the balance, though, when a pre-arb extension is possible, you’re slightly less concerned with playing service time games.)
All in all, Alcantara makes sense as a guy who could, and likely will, make his debut this year. There will be a spot – or spots – for him soon, and he’s showing some very good things at AAA after a breakout season in 2013 at AA (and a damn good season in 2012 at High-A). Getting his feet wet, especially in August (before roster expansion in September dilutes the talent pool), could be a great thing for 2015.