And then we have Mr. Cookie of 2014, Arismendy Alcantara. When Alcantara signed, there were not a lot of accolades. There were no leaps to the top of the prospect charts. In fact, I imagine the vast majority of Cubs fans didn’t even notice.
His first professional appearance was in 2009 in the Dominican Summer League. The following year the Cubs had him leap over Arizona and go straight to Boise. Based on that 2010 campaign he does make an appearance in the 2011 Baseball Prospects Handbook, but he appears as the third of three second basemen listed. Tony Thomas and Pierre LePage both out rank him, and none of them made the Top 30 list.
In 2012, while fellow Dominican switch hitting infielder Jeimer Candelario was drawing attention and checking in at Number 20 for Baseball America, Alcantara was listed as a shortstop in the Prospect Handbook behind Marco Hernandez, Wes Darvill, Carlos Penalver, and Elliot Soto.
But 2012 was also the year Alcantara, in an injury shortened campaign, broke out in High A Daytona and carved a notable niche for himself on the prospect radar for Cub fans. The Handbook left him at shortstop in the 2013 edition, the first edition in which he made the numbered list, as Alcantara checked in at Number 10 and behind only Baez at the position.
And then, of course, following a successful Double A campaign Alcantara was ranked as the top second baseman in the system and Number 7 overall for the Cubs in Baseball America’s most recent handbook.
Why recount all this ancient history now? Because there is a bit of mythology regarding prospects that says that no prospect can ever really move up the charts in a big way. If a guy isn’t ranked when he first arrives on the scene, then he’ll probably never amount to much and should be disregarded. Only those prospects who are ranked in the Top 100 or Top 150 in all of baseball today are worth considering.
That bit of mythology is completely inaccurate, and Alcantara is a perfect example of it. The minor league really are a place for players to develop and improve, not just an excuse to serve great food and for young players to kill some time until the front office wants to call them up. Prospects really do make improvements while in the minors, and sometimes those improvements can vault a guy out of the pack and into the spotlight. That leap forward does not always happen in the lowest levels, either; it wasn’t until he hit High A that Alcantara made the leap. But the point is that the leap does happen. It pays to have an organization chock full of fringe guys with intriguing potential because every so often one of them turns into an Alcantara.
It would, however, also be incorrect to say that all prospects in the minors have an equal chance to make that leap. They don’t, and tricky part is finding those gold nuggets before anyone else does. There are things we know to look for (age versus level, certain peripheral numbers, quality scouting reports, among others), but finding future Alcantaras when they are still toiling away in A ball will always be tough.
Imagine for a moment, though, that the Cubs had acquired Alcantara not via an international free agent signing, but as a Low A return piece in a trade that sent a middle reliever to a contender. Imagine how that trade would be received at the time (“Meh, just another prospect that won’t amount to anything. Why could the front office trade for this other guy instead?”) as compared to how it would be received today (“We should trade with that team more often!”).
That imaging could easily come true over the next few years. The Cubs know what they are looking for in minor league players, have a strong scouting department to find those targets, and have a plethora of bench pieces and middle relievers that could be dealt this month. There is no guarantee that an Alcantara 2.0 will be coming back to the Cubs in one of those trades, but there is a chance that one might. We will have to wait a few seasons to find out.
Scores From The Weekend
Friday – Iowa scored six times in the second for a 7-4 win.
Saturday – Saturday’s doubleheader opened with a 6-5 Iowa win in walk off fashion, and concluded with a late rally coming up short in a 2-1 loss.
Sunday – Missing most of their big bats, the Cubs lost 5-2.
Friday – The Smokies surrendered runs in the eighth and the ninth to lose 4-2.
Saturday – Despite seven hits, the Smokies were shut out 2-0.
Sunday – Two huge innings propelled the Smokies to this 14-8 win.
Kane County –
Friday – With this 6-3 win, Kane County moved to thirty games over .500 for the year.
Saturday – The Cougars were shutout in this one, though, 7-0.
Sunday – A 3-1 win opened the doubleheader, and a 6-5 win concluded it.
Boise Hawks –
Friday – Boise took the lead in the seventh and held on for a 5-3 win.
Saturday – The Hawks trailed for most of this 5-2 loss.
Sunday – A four run fourth proved decisive as the Hawks won 6-2.
Performances of Note
- [Iowa] Logan Watkins has stretched his hitting streak to 6 games with 6 more hits this weekend.
- [Iowa] Chris Rusin turned in another solid outing on Friday. Over 7 innings and 94 pitches the lefty allowed just 2 runs on 5 hits and a walk while striking out 9.
- [Iowa] Dan Straily struggled in his Saturday game, but Marcos Mateo bailed him out with 6 strikeouts over the final 3 innings.
- [Iowa] Ryan Kalish doubled and homered (his 5th) for Iowa on Saturday. He now has 3 home runs in July alone.
- [Tennessee] Corey Black struck out 8 over 7 innings and 84 pitches on Friday. He allowed 2 runs on 6 hits and walked no one.
- [Tennessee] Pierce Johnson needed 82 pitches to cover 5.1 innings on Saturday, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits and 3 walks in the process. He struck out 5.
- [Tennessee] Jorge Soler continues to hit very well. He singled and walked on Friday, lined a pinch hit double on Saturday, and then concluded his weekend by launching a pair of homers in a 3 for 5 game on Sunday.
- [Tennessee] Anthony Giansanti started every game this weekend, and hit safely in all of them. He finished up with 4 singles, a walk, and a strikeout.
- [Tennessee] Addison Russell finished Friday 2 for 5, and then added a pinch hit single on Sunday.
- [Daytona] Justin Amlung came on in relief of Rob Zastryzny on Saturday and allowed a run on 4 hits and no walks over 3 innings while striking out 3.
- [Daytona] Billy McKinney hit his first Daytona home run on Sunday and finished the weekend with 3 hits and a walk.
- [Daytona] Bijan Rademacher concluded his weekend with a total of 5 hits, including his 3rd triple. His OPS in July is currently .910.
- [Daytona] Rock Shoulders doubled in every game this weekend, and finished Saturday with a total of 3 hits.
- [Kane County] Duane Underwood gave up 2 runs, both on homers, in Friday’s start, and finished with 8 strikeouts over 6 innings.
- [Kane County] Jen-Ho Tseng struck out 7 and allowed a run on just 3 hits in Game One of the doubleheader.
- [Kane County] In Game Two of the doubleheader Jeimer Candelario homered twice and walked. On Saturday he doubled in the fourth straight game, and his July OPS now sits at 1.090.
- [Kane County] Jacob Hannemann hit his 6th home run on Friday, but went hitless the rest of the weekend.
- [Kane County] Kyle Schwarber finished the weekend with 6 hits, but none of them went for extra bases.
- [Boise] Josh Conway allowed a run on 3 hits over 3 innings in the start on Friday. Ryan McNeil followed that with 5 strikeouts over 2.2 innings, allowing a run on 2 hits.
- [Boise] Working in relief on Sunday, James Norwood struck out 4 in 2 flawless innings on the mound.
- [Boise] Jeffrey Baez hit safely in every game this weekend and finished the 3 games with a double, two walks, two strikeouts, and 3 total hits.
- [Boise] Rashad Crawford also hit safely in every game. He wrapped things up with a walk, 3 strikeouts, and 4 total hits.
- [Boise] Jesse Hodges doubled and had 3 hits on Friday. On Sunday he finished with 2 hits and now has a July OPS of 1.009.
- [Arizona] Carson Sands (1 IP, 2 K), Tommy Thorpe (1 IP, 2 K), Jesus Castillo (3 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 3 K), Pedro Araujo (3 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 5 K), and Yomar Morel (1 IP, 2 K) combined to pitch the shutout on Friday.
- [Arizona] Alex Santana struck out 4 and walked one over 4 hitless innings on Saturday. Kyuji Fujikawa pitching an inning in relief and allowed a hit and a walk while striking out a pair.
- [Arizona] Eloy Jimenez finished the weekend with a double, two walks, a strikeout, and two total hits.
- [Arizona] Emilio Bonifacio finished 3 for 4 in his first rehab start on Friday. He walked and went 0 for 2 on Saturday.
- Javier Baez homered for the World Team in the Futures Game, resulting in this awesome photograph. There are plenty more pictures were that came from, including several excellent shots of both Baez and Bryant here.
- The Triple A All-Star Game is on Wednesday, there will be Iowa Cubs in the radio booth as well as on the field. The Voice of the Iowa Cubs Deene Ehlis will join the radio booth for the game; it will be the third time he has called an All-Star game in his twenty five years with the Iowa Cubs.
- Soler has twenty hits in Double A, and fourteen of them have gone for extra bases. Small sample size alerts apply, but … good grief.