July 9, 2014
The Situation: Late Tuesday night the Cubs announced that second baseman Darwin Barney will be placed on paternity leave for two days, creating an opening at the major league level. With Emilio Bonifacio still on the disabled list the Cubs are giving Arismendy Alcantara (No. 18 prospect in the Baseball Prospectus midseason update) a two-day taste of major-league action as they’ve called him up from Triple-A Iowa to temporarily take Darwin Barney’s place.
Background: The switch-hitting Arismendy signed as an international free agent in 2008 as a shortstop. He made his Dominican League debut that summer and has been climbing the Cubs’ ranks ever since. He moved over to second base during the 2013 season after starting the year with Double-A Tennessee. The Cubs promoted Javier Baez to Double-A to join Alcantara, prompting the latter to make a position switch. The Cubs have been expanding his defensive capabilities since then as he’s transitioned to playing some center field in Iowa.
The Scouting: Alcantara’s loudest tools are his hit, run, and glove but he has a broad-based skill set and can do a little bit of everything. The bat has some surprising pop considering his size. He has strong wrists and a quick bat. At the major-league level the power will be more gap based but he’ll hit a few out.
Swing-and-miss is a part of his game but he makes loud contact when he connects and has shown an understanding of the strike zone the past two years. He’d done a good job of slashing the strikeouts from 2010 through 2012 but as he progressed to a higher level and faced better stuff he saw a slight increase in 2013. It accompanied a higher frequency of walks, though, and when he jumped to Triple-A this year he wasn’t overwhelmed by pitchers who could sequence.
His strike zone control is still raw and he is still very aggressive at the plate but there’s some aptitude there when it comes to understanding the strike zone. There will be hiccups when he gets an extended stay at the major-league level but I believe in his ability to adjust.
Speed is a big asset for Alcantara and he utilizes it responsibly as he’s always stolen bases at each level with great efficiency. That the Cubs are so comfortable moving him around the diamond is telling on what they think of both his baseball IQ and athleticism. He can play short, second, or center field well and he’s shown an ability to learn his new positions fairly quickly. Second base is likely his best position at present. He can play short but in the past he’s shown a tendency to speed the game up and start rushing his throws. He’s looked more fluid this year at second and with more repetitions he has the ability to become a solid defender at the keystone. All the tools are there as he has a strong arm, good range and a good baseball IQ. It’s about playing time and refinement at this point.
Immediate Impact: This is only a two-day callup so there isn’t much immediate impact. I think this is a positive sign for Alcantara, however as the Cubs have been dropping developmental hints that he’s close to coming up for good later in the year. The Cubs are still sellers, as evidenced by the Jeff Samardzija trade, and they have a few assets in the field that could be gone by the trade deadline. The Cubs have been proactive in increasing Alcantara’s positional flexibility the past two years, seemingly grooming him for an extended look in 2014.
Alcantara doesn’t have the loudest tools in the Cubs system, but he’s a sum of parts type whose total package adds up to something greater than the individual parts. That’s not to undersell his tools, he’s a very talented player. Rather, it’s to say that his profile is that of a do-everything type: a switch-hitting multipositional player with some pop, good speed, a quick bat and some really good defense. —Mauricio Rubio
Fantasy Impact: IT’S FINALLY HAPPENED! I’ve been championing Alcantara as a fantasy asset for close to two years now, so while this is just a two-game look at him, there’s a good chance that he sees major-league time later on in the season and thus is worth knowing about and/or potentially stashing.
Perhaps the least heralded of the Cubs' cadre of hitting prospects, Alcantara still clocked in at 18th overall on Jason Parks’ Updated Top 50 list. In that writeup, Parks gave Alcantara three impact tools at the big league level: hit, run, and glove. While the latter is less worthwhile in most fantasy formats, two impact tools at the keystone are more than enough to hold our interest. He’s going to play in a hitter-friendly environment, so while his power might never develop into an impact asset, he’ll produce enough home runs to get by. His five-category abilities are apparent in that he’s one of two players in the minor leagues to notch double-digits in doubles, triples, home runs and stolen bases—and he’s hitting .300 to boot.
There are some aspects of his game that are still unrefined. While he more than doubled his walk rate going from High-A to Double-A in 2013, Alcantara has seen that figure drop four percentage points this season. He does swing and miss his fair share as well, so the adjustment period could be a bumpy one. Adjustments are one thing that Alcantara excels at, though, having repeatedly shown the ability to make them at the minor-league level. Over a full season his production would likely come out to something in the .275/.340/.440 range, at least early in his career, and he can add 10-12 home runs with 20+ stolen bases. He’s a high-percentage basestealer as well, for those in net-stolen base leagues. While those are modest pro-rated contributions for the rest of the season, he’s an all-around contributor at a position of scarcity.
His two-game stint means his playing time is almost non-existent at the moment, but in leagues where he was unavailable prior to his major-league call-up, now is the time to strike. Assuming he comes back up following the July trade deadline, Alcantara is worth a bid in the $8-12 range, though it’s highly possible a team playing for next year ponies up a little more to get him, especially in dynasty formats. It is worth noting that if he’s optioned down to the minors prior to Monday, he won’t be available for bidding in many leagues despite his brief callup. Long term, Alcantara has 30-plus stolen base potential, which could push him inside the top 10 at his position even if his power never fully develops. That means his peak season could look something like 2013 Jason Kipnis and puts his floor is something a bit south of 2013 Jose Altuve, with the probable outcome somewhere in between. —Craig Goldstein
Mauricio Rubio is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @MRubio52