Although he got plenty of attention in the first half of the season, Arismendy Alcantara had previously labored in relative obscurity in the Chicago Cubs’ system, even before there was a Big Four from which to exclude him.
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2008 as a 16-year-old, Alcantara didn’t really become a “name” on the prospect scene until 2012, when he broke out as a 20-year-old shortstop having offensive success in High-A. That’ll get attention. Unfortunately, the break out was cut short by a bone break, and no one quite knew what they’d get in 2013. But Alcantara was promoted to AA as a 21-year-old, and he took off: his power and his walk rate skyrocketed, and a late-season move to second base underscored his positional versatility.
By the start of 2014, Alcantara had top 100 buzz (he made the very back end of just about every list), and he continued his success at AAA as a 22-year-old second baseman. The power ticked up, while the discipline dipped slightly, but not concerningly (his walk rate, for example, was below his 2013 mark, but above his 2012 mark). The strikeout rate bumped up a tiny bit, but not quite to an alarmingly high level.
So, midseason, Alcantara got the call to the bigs when a spot at second base opened up. He impressed immediately, particularly in his ability to flip between second and center field, before moving permanently to center field to accommodate Javier Baez. Center is a position, by the way, that Alcantara is learning for the first time as we speak.
Before carrying on the Alcantara love-fest, lets take a look at his 7th homer of the big league season, which he hit yesterday:
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) September 1, 2014
The switch hitter showed off his surprising power, in that instance, from the right side. You can watch the full video here at MLB.com, and marvel at both the speed and strength in Alcantara’s wrists. He is not a big guy, but he has so damn much power.
Between AAA and MLB, Alcantara has now hit 17 homers in 137 games. He’s stolen 28 bases, showing off his unique combination of speed and power, all from higher-order defensive positions. Further, Alcantara’s discipline numbers have held steady between AA and AAA.
Sure, Alcantara’s .218/.278/.378 line appears unimpressive, but that comes with a BABIP (.267) some 80(!) points lower than his minor league career mark. You expect BABIP to drop in the bigs, but not nearly that far. With Alcantara’s speed and ability to barrel the ball, a true-talent BABIP over .310/.320 would not surprise me at all. And you can imagine what that kind of BABIP would do to Alcantara’s line and overall production.
Still, despite that, Alcantara has already been worth 1.0 WAR, according to FanGraphs, thanks in large part to his defensive versatility and ability. In small samples, he’s rated as WAY above average defensively at second base, and solidly above average in center field.
If we project out his success thus far – even with the probably-too-low offensive production – over a full season, he’s a 3 to 4 WAR player. Did I mention that he’s 22, and he’s learning a new defensive position?
Yet, with the arrival of Javier Baez and Jorge Soler, it feels a bit like history is repeating itself – folks might be sleeping on Alcantara once again. Maybe that’s fine. In any case, I’m pretty excited about what he could contribute to the Cubs in 2015, even if he doesn’t actually get any better. And he might. He might get a lot better.