Arismendy Alcantara: The Cubs Other Shortstop Prospect
The Cubs have a plethora of young shortstops in their organization. From their Major League shortstop, the 23-year-old Starlin Castro, to their 20-year-old slugging Florida State League shortstop, Javier Baez, the Cubs have an embarrassment of riches at the position. But wait, there’s more. The sudden emergence of Southern League shortstop Arismendy Alcantara has brought the embarrassment of riches for the Cubs to ridiculous levels. Alcantara, a 21-year-old switch hitting shortstop, has emerged as a bona fide major league prospect.
Coming out of Spring Training, Alcantara was receiving a good bit of buzz from members of the national prospect media. Rotoscouting’s Mike Newman, in a piece for FanGraphs, listed Alcantara as one of the prospects he liked the most in the Cactus League after seeing Alcantara in Cubs camp. While Mike’s snapshot is brief, his report is consistent with the looks I’ve had on the young shortstop in the past two months. Arismendy Alcantara is bursting onto the scene with a toolset that most shortstops can only dream of possessing.
Can he stick at shortstop defensively? That is possibly the case. Will the Cubs want him to stick at the position? Well, that’s another question. Considering the other players who play the position in their system, the Cubs may decide that his shortstop days are numbered. Alcantara projects as a below average major league defensive shortstop. While there are reports that he has above average range, I feel like that’s more of a projection given the current state of his footwork. Presently, Alcantara has average range and features an above average throwing arm but makes too many errors to man the position adequately on the major league level. The two poorly executed plays that I saw were due to poor footwork. This will have to improve if he has aspirations of playing shortstop in the majors.
The footwork issues defensively do not affect any other aspect of Alcantara’s game. In fact, his footwork plays up his running ability on the bases. Alcantara is a plus runner. While I didn’t record any impressive home to first times, Alcantara showcased impressive speed during a botched hit and run attempt that turned into a successful stolen base. I also witnessed Alcantara accelerate to another gear stretching a single into a double on a ball being chased down by Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig. The 19 stolen bases in 22 attempts is no aberration. With Alcanatara’s speed and instincts, I project Alcantara to be a 30 plus steal guy in the Majors.
The switch hitting Alcantara is a good hitter……from the left side. He swings the bat free and easy as a left handed hitter. In batting practice, he worked all fields from the left side but mostly drove the ball the best to the right center field gap. In game action, Alcantara scorched the ball through the right side of the infield on 3 occasions. His swing is compact and he drives through the ball very well. Like a lot of young hitters, he has a below average read on the breaking pitches, especially ones that break out of the zone. What really sets Alcantara apart as a left handed hitter is his ability to drive the ball, which is reflected by a 2.34 ISO, fairly unheard of from a 21 year old in Double A, yet alone a middle infielder. The ball wasn’t just scraping the top of the fence as it went out during batting practice; he was driving the ball over the back wall of the train well.
From the right side, Alcantara looks very mechanical, making his bat speed and reaction time depressed. This weakness is evident in his splits. He sports a .220/.297/.317 line from the right side, compared to a .297/.374/.531 line from the left side. If Alcantara can become more free and easy with his swing, the elements are there for him to become an average right handed hitter, which would raise his stock even more.
Just how Arismendy Alcantara falls into the Cubs future plans is anyone’s guess. Do they start to transition Alcantara to second base full time or do they increase his trade value by working him at shortstop? Whatever plan they chose, Alcantara is one of the better middle infield prospects in baseball. He could become an above average major leaguer with better footwork in the field and creating better outcomes from the plate as a right handed hitter. If he continues his progression in the second half of the season, expect his name to pop up on many media top prospect lists next offseason. For now, enjoy looking towards the future Cubs fans, a potent lineup is only a few years away.