We expected Kris Bryant and Javier Baez to be knocking on the door by this time, but we also understand the process and why they don’t make sense for the 2014 season.
In a perfect world, the Cubs would have liked to have brought up Arismendy Alcantara for a cup of coffee and then save him for 2015 as well, but sometimes talented players don’t adhere to your tidy little plans.
Now before you tell me about how Kris Bryant is forcing the Cubs hands as well, consider that Alcantara has 400 more games and 1700 more minor league PAs under his belt — including almost 300 more at the AAA level.
Alcantara is also very different from Junior Lake, who found himself called up early in an emergency situation last season. Lake matched him in terms of minor league experience (though about 200 PAs less at the AAA level). There is a significant difference in their approach at the plate. Alcantara understands it his role to get on base and/or to wait for a pitch he can drive. The experience and age may be similar, but in terms of a mature approach, Alcantara is light years ahead. Small sample size aside, I think Alcantara has shown he is ready to stay from a skills standpoint whereas Lake’s early statistical success may have been a little misleading. Ideally you’d like them to switch places with Lake getting more time in AAA, but things are always more complicated when you are dealing with people than a stat line. It will be interesting to see how the Cubs handle this because if Alcantara stays, it does no go good to keep Lake as a bench or platoon player.
Alcantara isn’t the only player messing with time frames. Jorge Soler has done it from both a positive and negative standpoint. The Cubs would have hoped he would have had at least 500 more minor league PAs under his belt than he does now. More to the point, they would have liked him to have more than 53 PAs above the A ball level.
The problem with Soler is twofold: A) time is running out in terms of options and B) He is destroying AA pitching right now.
The temptation is to move him up. But should they?
Soler would seem to be more advanced in terms of pitch selection even than Arismendy Alcantara, but we have only seen it in small samples and certainly not enough at the upper levels.
Soler was granted an extra option for next season and given his lack of development time, the Cubs would be wise to jump all over that. They need to use all the time that is available to them. They need to make sure he is ready when he comes up, because when he comes up, he’s coming up for good. Circumstances have dictated that. An early call-up as Hoyer did with Anthony Rizzo makes it difficult to go back and re-claim those needed minor league ABs. Rizzo wound up going back to AAA for half of the 2012 season. But he had the luxury of going back with no time pressure constraints. If Soler has to go back to the minors, he would have lost some development time he cannot get back. He cannot afford to lose anymore than he has and then have to come up again at a time that may be more dictated by his options situation than anything else
Call him up when he is ready, after he has had his 1/2 season at AA and at least a 1/2 season at AAA. There will be plenty of cookies, there is no need to curtail his development more than you have to. In fact, the Cubs may have to be creative and find ways to increase his much needed reps at the plate and in the field.
I would play it by ear. Let’s see how he does over the next month or so — and let’s see how the AA Tennessee team does vs. the AAA Iowa club. I think if it looks like Iowa will be in the playoffs but Tennessee won’t, you promote Soler late in the season, not just to get the playoff experience, but to get the extra ABs as well. On the other hand if it’s the Smokies heading to the playoffs, you keep him there.
Other intriguing options include calling him up in September once the minor league playoffs are done to get him more reps and then there is winter ball, which is a higher level of competition than the fall league. Either way, however, you have to bring him back to AAA to start 2015 and preferably stay there for a few months to get his ABs.
The Cubs are already fielding a young team that will include Castro, Castillo, Rizzo, Alcantara, Baez, and Bryant at some point next season. The Cubs would like to surround them with some veterans. There is plenty of time for Soler to join that group.
For now, I think both of these talented players, Alcantara and Soler, are right where they belong.
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