As I don’t have to tell you, two guys that received MVP votes in a Cubs uniform were traded on Thursday, netting a total of three prospects. I don’t mean to be pithy about Anthony Rizzo; it literally took me hours of processing before I could watch the prospect tape necessary to write this post. And a shout out to Ryan Tepera, too, who is the personification of what gives me hope about how the Cubs Hottovy-Breslow pitching infrastructure team can help this rebuild stay short.
Onto the new prospects!
Description: Note up front – this section is going to be smaller, as Alcantara is yet to play a streamed game, so I’m reliant on YouTube videos here. Alcantara, who just turned 19, has only played complex ball during his career, including just eight games this year. He’s listed at 6-foot-6 and 188 pounds, with as small a waist as you’ll ever find for someone with the raw power projections he carries, and muscle development projection at literally every part of his body.
Skills you’re excited about: There’s a fluidity that Alcantara possesses that could have pushed him to basketball had he been born in the United States. Cubs Director of Hitting Justin Stone likes to talk about movement profiles, and I would imagine that Alcantara will be the loosest mover at his size that Stone has ever coached. If he can maintain any of that once he’s added 40 pounds of muscle, that’s an All-Star ceiling.
Development that needs to happen: The Yankees have been working on quieting this swing, which in 2019 featured one of the highest leg kicks I’ve ever seen and a whole lot of length. The 2021 version still features those things, but they’ve been tempered just a little bit. When Alcantara gets stronger, he won’t need to work so hard to load up his swing (see the changes the Cubs have worked with Jordan Nwogu on) to hit the ball as hard as he’s clearly trying to.
Trying to contextualize him in the system: I can’t wait to talk to people in Mesa at the end of the year and have them compare Alcantara with Owen Caissie, Reggie Preciado, and Ismael Mena. I imagine everyone is going to have their favorites; mine is Caissie, who I can tell you would now be a top 2-4 prospect in the system for me based on recent conversations I’ve had. Preciado’s probably also further down the development curve and should end up at a more valuable position. So my instinct is that I’d have Alcantara after them, but before Mena (or even someone like Yohendrick Pinango), which means around 9 or 10?
Description: I’ll tell you what I couldn’t believe when I first read reports on Vizcaino: wait he’s 24, on the 40-man roster, and has 31.1 career innings above Low-A?! He also had a shoulder impingement this season, according to Baseball America, which has kept him to sub-30 pitch outings so far. Vizcaino is listed at 6-2, 160, but looks bigger due to long legs. Like with Alcantara, you feel like you’ll be introducing him to the weight room, but with Vizcaino’s age I think the projection is lower. Good athlete. His delivery, which apparently was a focus at the Yankees Alternate Training Site last year, looks pretty good: high leg kick, stays on plane, manageable amount of violence, arm explodes through 3/4 release point.
Skills you’re excited about: There hasn’t been much this year on tape, but from what I did see, I’m impressed with the life on Vizcaino’s fastball. It’s not just good ride upstairs, it seems to catch that extra oomph to all quadrants. Some distinction between two- and four-seam, and the velocity by itself (mid to high 90s) is impressive. If I look back on 2019 highlights, you see that Vizcaino has a superb split-change that he had comfort throwing to right- and left-handed hitters alike. I saw two sliders on tape this year that showed better shape than the ones I saw from 2019, which is encouraging.
Development that needs to happen: I wouldn’t say we’ve reached a time of urgency in Vizcaino’s development, but when you’re on the 40-man and in A-ball, health starts getting important. The feel this year of all pitches, and for getting swing and miss, just hasn’t been there. I think the work on the slider needs to continue, I don’t think it should ever be accepted he’ll just be a fastball/change guy. And I think you need to do what you can to put some muscle on this guy. Oddly not comfortable at all against left-handed hitters with the fastball this year.
Trying to contextualize him in the system: I prefer Ryan Jensen, who is a bit younger and at the same level, when we think about right-handers where the feel comes in and out. The interesting comparison is D.J. Herz, who is way younger and more raw, but features similar qualities to Vizcaino in terms of fastball life and changeup. I think I’d probably slot Vizcaino right behind Herz initially, so you’re talking about right around 15 in the system, but with the acknowledgment that it could end up closer to 10 if he stretches back out and looks good doing it.
Description: One of those guys who came back from Tommy John surgery (while at Junior College) to throw harder, which he did at Auburn. Listed at 6-2, 210, Horn is a strong athlete with filled-out chest. Uses strength but not athleticism so much in a stiff delivery, generating velocity out of a low 3/4 release due to a good hip hinge.
Skills you’re excited about: In a world where the LOOGY is still a thing, Horn could be a plug-and-play option with a fastball-slider combination that plays against left-handed hitters already. The slider is a particularly horizontal offering while the fastball plays up vertically. The fastball, which has reportedly touched 98, is dangerous when high-and-away to right-handed hitters as well.
Development that needs to happen: The walk rate has jumped at the High-A level and I don’t think it’s really the problem of bad control, but that Horn can sometimes struggle to put hitters away and end up in deep counts. Far more comfortable pitching to the outside half of the plate against hitters. I don’t think either breaking ball is quite there, the slider velocity and shape can vary and the mid-70s curveball is more of a show-me offering.
Trying to contextualize him in the system: I’m probably evaluating Horn firmly as a reliever. Bryan Hudson is only about 250 days older, shows similar velocity out of a more unique release point, and has similar breaking ball fringiness. Brendon Little is a really similar profile to Horn, just probably doesn’t command the fastball as well. My comparison to these two should signal that Horn would be a 40-60 prospect in the system right now. Reminder, the Cubs’ system is exceptionally deep at the moment.