The Chicago Cubs are currently a franchise built on the future, with many of their prospects grabbing more headlines than their big league players (except for Jeff Samardzija). The future, however, is still a little ways down the road. Kris Bryant was recently called up to Triple-A Iowa, and will likely finish the year there. Javier Baez still needs to show improvement in his hitting approach before he gets called up. But there is one prospect in the system who has shown steady improvement each season while providing consistent production.
Arismendy Alcantara joined the Cubs organization in 2009 when he was a 17 year old kid. Since then he has steadily progressed through the minor league system, getting better every year. That progress earned him a place on three different top-prospect lists entering the 2014 season. He was ranked as low as 100 by Baseball America, and as high as 83 by Baseball Prospectus. His improvements on defense, speed, and offensive abilities have helped him rise through the system.
Alcantara was originally signed as a shortstop, but the emergence of Starlin Castro made it clear that he was not going to reach the majors playing that position. He began to play both second and third base on a more regular basis, and has improved at both positions each year. This season with the Iowa Cubs he has played mostly second base, and currently has the best fielding percentage (.960) he’s had in his career. The I-Cubs have also had him play a few games in the outfield to become more versatile as a defender, which is something they have also done with Logan Watkins. His best position throughout his career has been at second base, but he seems to be blocked there with the Valbuena/Barney platoon. However, his ability to play multiple positions would come in handily on the major league roster.
Another part of Alcantara’s game is utilizing his plus speed, which can happen as soon as he makes contact with the ball. Of his 72 hits so far this season, 33 have gone for extra bases. That is just under 46% of his hits. He also gets plenty of chances to show his speed on the base paths. So far in his professional career he has 106 stolen bases, including a steal of home last year. His speed has put him in the Pacific Coast League top ten in triples (9) and stolen bases (15).
A big advantage that Alcantara has offensively is that he is a switch hitter that can hit well from both sides of the plate. In fact, the only real difference between hitting right- and left-handed in his career is the number of home runs he has. Hitting right-handed he has a slash line of .276/.327/.435 with 25 home runs, compared to his left-handed slash line of .287/.344/.434 with just seven homers. He gets on base slightly more when hitting as a lefty, but there isn’t very much of a difference between the two.
Alcantara has also started to drive the ball well. His power started to come around last year, hitting 15 home runs plus this shot at the Futures Game. He has even challenged powerful prospect Javier Baez as the I-Cubs home run leader for most of this season. And as far as his improvements offensively? Alcantara has already set a season high for triples (9), and is currently setting career bests in slugging percentage (.508) and OPS (.829).
The Chicago Cubs are expected to be sellers again this year. If they move players like they did last year (like Scott Hairston and David DeJesus), then there could be several roster spots that open up. Nate Schierholtz and Darwin Barney have been mentioned in trade rumors within the last year, Emilio Bonifacio has been identified as a potential trade target, and guys like Ryan Sweeney and Justin Ruggiano could possibly be dealt as well. If any combination of these guys get traded, utility guys like Alcantara and Watkins could get called up.
While he might not have the notoriety of Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, or even Kyle Schwarber, Alcantara’s steady and consistent growth has turned him into arguably their most major league ready prospect. Should a big league roster spot open up because of injury or trade, or if he has to wait until the roster expansion in September, we will very likely see Arismendy Alcantara in Wrigley Field by the end of this year.
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