Brett has already updated you on how well Javier Baez has been doing in AAA and how soon he may be back, but there is another young, former top prospect who also made his MLB debut in 2014 and is currently doing some nice things in Iowa: Arismendy Alcantara.
After a rough go of it in MLB in 2014, Alcantara didn’t get off to the start he hoped for in 2015. Despite posting a stellar walk rate (15.6%), Alcantara was striking out in 34.4% of his PAs, while watching his slash line (.077/.226/.077) dwindle (extremely small sample size alert). Indeed, Alcantara made hard contact only 6.3% of the time in 2015, after doing so 25.5% of the time in 2014. If it felt like he was always hitting dribblers and weak pops, he was.
Given the fact that the Cubs were performing well and Alcantara clearly had things to work on, he was sent down to AAA Iowa on April 21 to reset his swing/approach and reestablish himself. After a rough first five games, though, Alcantara has begun to do just that.
Since April 28, Alcantara has appeared in 35 games (159 PAs) with a…
- Slash line of .305/.365/.567
- Walk rate of 8.8%
- Strike out rate of 23.3%
- ISO of .262
- wOBA of .404
- wRC+ 146
- BABIP of .361
All of which is just swell.
Compare that to his time spent in AAA last year:
- Slash line of .307/.353/.537
- Walk rate of 6.8%
- Strikeout rate of 22.7%
- ISO of .230
- wOBA .382
- wRC+ 126
- BABIP of .380
Alcantara’s OPS is way up, he’s hitting for more power (ISO, Slugging) and walking a good deal more than he did last year. Indeed, his BABIP is 19 points lower this year, as well, suggesting that he may even have been luckier the last time around. To me, the increased power and walk rate (and slightly increased strikeout rate) scream “selective aggression” – the approach the Cubs organization has pounded into their curriculum.
I am just not too worried about his strikeout rate, even though that was a problem in the majors. Before his debut last year, Alcantara never posted a K% greater than 22.7%, which is perfectly acceptable. Given that he is walking more and hitting for more power, a 23.3% K rate isn’t concerning yet. Hopefully, it does come down a little bit more, though, as he continues his recent hot streak and continues to adjust to offspeed stuff.
Now, let’s talk about his BABIP. Before reaching the majors last year, Alcantara’s BABIP throughout his time in the minors was .348. During his stint in MLB, though, that number fell all the way down to .255. I know a lot of fans are sick of hearing the positive regression explanation over and over, but sometimes that really helps to explain an individual’s production (or lack there of). While it’s true that most players see their BABIP go down when they transition to the majors (better defense, softer contact), Alcantara is fast and does hit the ball hard. And while his true BABIP level may never reach the .348 figure he achieved in roughly 2000 plate appearances, it will likely be greater than .255. In fact, BABIP tends to normalize player to player, as opposed to a general league average. In light of that, it may be even more acceptable to expect a greater BABIP from Alcantara than league average.
All in all, Alcantara appears to be making adjustments, seeing improvements and is likely to help out at the major league level, in one way or another, in 2015.
In total at AAA this year, he’s hitting .283/.350/.522. Solid.
And, because who doesn’t like dingers, here’s Alcantara ripping one deep to right on the I-Cubs’ recent road trip (his ability to send the ball incredibly far given his size and his easy swing remains impressive):