Who is Arismendy Alcantara?

Who is Arismendy Alcantara?

Despite a few exceptions, I think most would agree that there has been widespread disappointment regarding the Cubs top prospects so far this year.

Sure, Kris Bryant has been the Destroyer of Souls between AA and AAA this year. But Javy Baez and Albert Almora have struggled in their continued development. Jorge Soler and C.J. Edwards have spent the majority of the season on the disabled list. Not that any of that is indicative of future success, but it still sucks when things don't go like you'd hoped.

One guy that has been practically as good as advertised this year is AAA Iowa Cubs second baseman and part-time center fielder Arismendy Alcantara (pronounced AL-KAHN-TRA).

He didn't start out absolutely killing the ball, but held his own in the first few months at AAA despite being only 22 years old in a league of mostly older guys. To put it into perspective, he hasn't faced a single pitcher all year that is younger than he is.

But he's come on strong lately. His slash line for the month of June is currently .298/.359/.452 with 1 home run and 7 stolen bases. He's on pace for about 16 home runs, 36 doubles, and a ridiculous 20 triples this season.

During this recent stretch he's held an 8.6% walk rate, which is good for him. It's at 6.4% on the season and 7.2% for his career, so baby steps. His K-rate for the last month is 20.6%, while sitting at 23.2% for the whole season and an even 20% for his career.

For those of you that may not be as familiar with “rate stats”, Fangraphs offers a handy guide that you can read here. In short, he measures as “below average” for his K and walk rates. Fangraphs offers this information as well:

“Power hitters tend to have high strikeout and walk rates, since they may swing and miss often, yet are pitched around by pitchers. Contact hitters are the opposite; they tend to have low strikeout and walk rates...The more a player strikes out, the tougher it is for them to maintain a high batting average since they are putting fewer balls in play.”

Should it be somewhat concerning that he's had a relatively low walk rate AND a higher K rate? He's not a power hitter in the true sense, and he's not a contact hitter either.

The concern would be that if he doesn't walk over 10% of the time and he K's 20% of the time, it'll be tough for him to hold a decent OBP. Well, he is still only 22. And while the K rate has climbed slightly, his walk rate has improved.

I don't think it should keep anyone up at night. Just don't try to talk yourself into the idea that he's a lead-off hitter, and you should be fine. He kind of looks like a lead-off hitter because he's speedy, has a small body type, and plays defense at second base and in center field.

But make no mistake; this guy is more of a doubles and triples hitter than he is a traditional lead-off man. Recently, in the spirit of curiosity regarding Jason Parks' BPTop50 list, I asked him via Twitter in what range of the top 100 Alcantara may fall:

That's enough to blow you away right there, even from a guy who once referred to Alcantara as “Jose Reyes lite.” He also answered a solid follow up question by Mike Moody of Cubs Den, who asked if Alcantara could have a high enough OBP to lead-off or if he's a 6/7 hitter:

I'm pretty sure Parks is extremely sick of constantly hearing from Cubs fans, but it doesn't stop me from bombarding him on a regular basis.

Just to cover my bases, I asked a scout for a Major League organization for his opinion on Alcantara. He also professed love, and agreed with Parks on the lineup positioning. Being a 7th or 8th-place hitter is likely for him in an ideal situation, according to this scout, with a ceiling of possibly being a top-of-the -order hitter.

He also mentioned that he's not overly concerned by the low walk rate, because it was over 10% at AA last year and has improved as this season has progressed.

With the attention that the other hitters in the Cubs farm system have gotten, it was easy to overlook the guy. With the strong season that he's having, combined with the struggles of a few of the other top prospects, it's also easy to get a little over excited too.

What I would take away from all of this is that being excited about Alcantara is completely justified. With continued development from Bryant and Baez in the minors, as well as Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo in the majors, the Cubs have built a treasure chest of wealth in the infield.

This inventory of highly-projected infielders has necessitated Alcantara learning to play in center field this year, and it may cause Bryant to learn the outfield and Baez to learn a new position as well.

The Cubs haven't had a stable, long-term second baseman since Ryne Sandberg. If Alcantara stays at second, they could finally have developed a legitimate replacement. Even if he never walks a lot.

@NotTheCubsWay

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  • Len said a few weeks ago that Alcantara likes his last name pronounces Al-Can-Tra. I'm guessing it's more of a latin accent, so Al-Can-Tara with a very short first a and a long 2nd a. Accent only on the last A. :)

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    In a perfect world this is the comparison that I have for Alcantara. He is Lance "One Dog" Johnson. He has the same aproach at the plate, the same high profile defense (at CF he is a work in progress but the tools are there for it to be top notch).
    The major difference I see is that Alcantara has more gap power so the Slugging is going to be closer to .450 than Johnson every dreamed (career less than .400). The only difference I see is that Johnson had a great walk rate in the minors and for some reason it did not translate into the majors.
    Johnsons best role was being the 2nd lead off guy batting 9th for the White Sox in the early 90's. Right now if the Cubs were in the AL that is the role I think Alcantara would excel at as well.

  • I was just coming here to add a comment on that. Just a small error when typing last night at around 12am. Meant to type Al-KAHN-tra. If that's the worst error, I'm a lucky guy. Sorry everybody.

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    Nice post... I've seen about 70 at bats in person from Alcantara this season. Here's my untrained eye's takeaway...

    He has quick hands defensively at 2B and shows decent, but not great range. He takes indirect routes to balls in CF, though his inexperience there can be made up by his athleticism and quickness. A few more reps out there would help.

    His speed on the basepaths has been a welcome surprise. He's very efficient there, only going on good running counts and getting great reads and jumps. Because of this, getting on base more would help his value.

    Against lefties, he's able to spray the ball to all fields, which opens up the inside part of the plate to pull. Against righties, he gets off balance and swings at balls off the outside part of the plate. Until he solves this plate discipline stuff against righties, he's going to stay in AAA.

  • In reply to Phil James:

    Solid analysis, which is consistent with what I've seen (it's only been video). I left this out for sake of word count, small sample size, and also my ultimate point, but AA has struggled against righties at AAA this year. He's batted .350 against lefties and around .250 against righties. It's a small sample, but those numbers will have to normalize. Thanks for reading.

  • Ultimately, I don't think he will be a table setter, but his speed could still factor in heavily even if its near bottom of the order.

  • the one thing Ive noticed about AA is at every level he improves as the season goes on. The kid seems to know how to make adjustments, which says hes coachable, Those kind of traits speak well of his game. If AA becomes 90% of Jose Reyes, youve got an all-star on your hands.

  • A couple of timely updates from Professor Parks on the BP Mid-Season rankings...

    Jason Parks ‏@ProfessorParks 11m
    The prospects w/ the most helium from the off-season 101 to the #BPTop50 are Gallo (95/16), Dahl (100/27), and Alcantara (83/30). #want

    Jason Parks ‏@ProfessorParks 3m
    Yes. We were too low on Alcantara this off-season. RT @drocthekid @ProfessorParks Alcantara higher than Almora/Soler now? #Cubs

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