I’m a little shocked today that the Cubs are opting to designate a really intriguing young pitcher for assignment just so that they can call up an infielder and WAIT to put David Bote on the 60-day IL. But that’s what is happening.
Today the Cubs placed David Bote (separated shoulder) on the 10-day IL, and in his place, the Cubs are calling up defensive stud Sergio Alcantara, who has also been a hitting stud so far in the brief minor league season. Since Alcantara was not on the 40-man roster, the Cubs needed to make room for him – and instead of putting Bote on the 60-day IL (which removes him from the 40-man), the Cubs are DFA’ing pitcher Tyson Miller. Wow.
Alcantara, 24, is hitting a ridiculous .328/.481/.459 at Triple-A Iowa through his first 79 PAs at that level. To be sure, that .419 BABIP is probably inflated, but the guy is walking SO much that he’s clearly getting himself into good hitter’s counts consistently. I love that he’s getting a look, and frankly I wish he were starting today immediately. Why have him up if you aren’t going to take advantage of this opportunity to really give him a serious look? Especially given the exceptional glove, and especially given his roster situation.
By that part, I mean Alcantara has no minor league options left. So if you’re bringing him up now, you either think he’s gonna be up for a long time (straight up Bote replacement for a couple months?), or you don’t care about losing him. Because if the Cubs ever want to send him down, they have to get him through waivers (won’t happen) and then outright him with him accepting the outright instead of electing free agency (probably wouldn’t happen). Given that he’s a top-tier defender in the middle infield, given that the bat *may* have popped during the shutdown, and given all the injuries on the positional side this year for the Cubs, I’ve gotta believe they have no interest in losing Alcantara in a week when some other positional guy returns. I think they’re gonna try to hang onto him all year, which would mean he’s now up for good. Wild.
Also wild is the decision not to put Bote on the 60-day right now, which suggests there is hope in the organization, as of this morning, that Bote might miss some amount of time considerably less than that. Otherwise, why would you trade, say, just a week or two of Bote’s availability for the entirety of Tyson Miller’s presence in the organization.
Miller, 25, just started pitching again at Triple-A Iowa after a slowed start because of COVID. He has big league stuff, without question, and it’s just a matter of whether he’ll be able to make it as a back-end starter, or if he’ll eventually convert to the bullpen. I’m not saying he’s definitely going to be a great big leaguer – that hurdle is always a question – but he’s going to pitch in the big leagues again. It just won’t be with the Cubs, it seems.
The Cubs have seven days to trade, waive, or release Miller, and since I expect he’d easily be claimed on waivers, I’m thinking the Cubs are working to trade him as we speak. Heck, they might be able to get a pretty interesting piece in return, even as they’ve now artificially hamstrung themselves in the trade market. I guess this is part of what happens when you get suddenly loaded in pitching, but mostly it’s because of all the gd injuries on the positional side. I *have* to believe the Cubs are confident they can trade Miller for a decent piece, and while this was about the 40-man spot, yes, it was also about rearranging the areas of depth in the upper minors. Because otherwise … wtf.
Just 24, Alcantara is right now the same age as Hoerner, and the Cubs claimed him off of waivers from the Tigers back in February (later slipping him through waivers – as a guy without minor league options left, he was going to be tough for any team to actually have him make the Opening Day roster). As recently as 2019, his last real season, Alcantara was viewed as a legit prospect in a robust Tigers system, ranking 16th to FanGraphs at the time. He was viewed as a glove-first shortstop prospect, with a bat that was always close to league average, but it was one of those high-contact, no-power types that doesn’t always translate at the upper levels (much less MLB). That said, he came out of the gate at Iowa this year looking like an entirely different hitter – much more power, so many more walks, and immediately became the most reliable fixture in the Triple-A lineup (a level where he had yet to play, despite a cup of coffee with the Tigers in the pandemic 2020 season).
That is all to say, in another world, you’d be really excited for the Cubs to get a look at Alcantara right now anyway. Just, you know, not like this. We’ll have more on Alcantara if he actually does wind up getting the call tonight.
And from my initial write up when the Cubs claimed him this offseason:
Alcantara, 24, was formerly a well-regarded young switch-hitting prospect in the Diamondbacks system, included in the 2017 deadline trade to the Tigers for J.D. Martinez. After that year, he was added to the Tigers’ 40-man roster so they could keep him around despite his relative youth, but he stalled out at AA as the power didn’t develop:
Alcantara did get a cup there with the Tigers in the shortened 2020 season, but clearly they decided he wasn’t going to stick. The glove seems to be legit, but as a smaller, slappy, contact hitter, it can be hard to stick in the big leagues if you aren’t constantly barreling liners for base hits.
As recently as 2019, Alcantara was ranked as the 16th best prospect in a good Tigers system by FanGraphs, but the upside is really limited:
“It’s easy to fall in love with Alcantara after just watching him take infield. Not only is he coordinated and acrobatic, but his throws to first sizzle through the air, even with just a flick of his wrist. He has one of the best infield arms in the minors and should be an above-average defender at maturity. At the plate, he lacks even a modicum of strength and has near bottom-of-the-scale power from both sides of the plate. He’s a competent slash and dash hitter, but that’s becoming less common, even at shortstop. Tigers fans who visit this site are likely acquainted with Jose Iglesias‘ player page. Iglesias was a better defender than Alcantara (and, well, just about everybody) and had better feel for contact with similar power, and is someone we’d ideally have as a 45 or 50 on prospect lists based on his’ WAR production. Logically, Alcantara needs to be beneath those tiers. He could be a speedy, versatile bench infielder for a long time, though.”
The Cubs don’t have a lot of obvious upper-level depth capable of playing big-league-caliber shortstop, so this is a good addition just in case something were to happen at the big league level. And, I suppose, it’s a free shot in the dark that you can take a smaller, high-contact, switch-hitter, and tweak him just enough to make him playable offensively. I like it.