SL notes: Alcantara continues to rise
Cubs prospect settling into new role across Smokies infield
By Guy Curtright / Special to MiLB.com
Arismendy Alcantara moved from shortstop to second base when Javier Baez, the Chicago Cubs' No. 1 prospect, joined Tennessee from Class A Advanced Daytona on July 6. That didn't mean the 21-year-old switch-hitter from the Dominican Republic had to assume a secondary role to the more acclaimed Baez, though. In fact, Alcantara has shined even brighter.
Since Baez's arrival, the Cubs' No. 20 prospect has homered in the All-Star Futures Game, started the Southern League All-Star Game and continued to put up impressive all-around offensive numbers.
Alcantara was batting .284 with 13 homers and 46 RBIs through 95 games and led the Southern League in doubles (26), extra-base hits (41) and total bases (170). He had also stolen 22 bases in 25 attempts and drawn 40 walks while compiling a slash line of .358/.478/.835.
The power numbers are especially impressive when you consider that Alcantara is just 5-foot-10 and weighs only 170 pounds. Mention his surprising strength and Alcantara breaks into a smile.
"I just look for my pitch and try to hit it," he said. "I don't try to swing hard."
But the ball can go a long way, as shown by his homer to right at Citi Field in New York that gave the World team a fourth-inning tie in an eventual 4-2 loss to the United States on July 14.
"Getting to play in the Futures Game was awesome," Alcantara said. "It showed that people knew about me and I was getting closer to the Major Leagues."
Alcantara started at second base for the World, and that was always considered his eventual spot. The arrival of Baez just hastened the move.
"I don't care which position -- I just want to play," Alcantara said.
One of Alcantara's last games at shortstop may have been in the Southern League All-Star Game on July 17. He and Baez figure to be paired for a while as they move toward Chicago.
Alcantara has certainly impressed Jackson's Jim Pankovitz, his manager in the Southern League game.
"He's got good everything," said Pankovitz. "He can run, he can hit, he's got a good arm."
That arm, though, can be erratic. He had 30 errors in 85 games with Daytona last season and has 25 errors this year. That's why second base should be a better fit.
Alcantara was hitting .302 when his season came to a premature end last July after breaking a bone in his foot. This year he is making up for lost time.
"He's one of the more exciting players in the league with his speed and power," Tennessee manager Buddy Bailey said.
Alcantara is also playing catch up when it comes to living in a different country. Mastering English has been a key part of that. He began taking lessons at the Cubs' Dominican Academy after signing shortly following his 17th birthday.
"I'm still learning. It is a little bit hard." Alcantara said. "I keep trying to improve."
Alcantara has worked hard to polish his baseball skills as well, and the results are showing.
Baez hit a home run in his first Double-A at-bat and is No. 13 among MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects. But right now Alcantara doesn't need to take a back seat to anyone. He's been playing too well for that.
Moving up: Jacksonville outfielder Christian Yelich, ranked No. 10 among MLB.com Top 100 Prospects, had four multi-hit games over a five-game stretch before being promoted, going 10-for-20 with a double and a home run. Miami's No. 1 prospect missed five weeks with an abdominal strain before returning July 10 and then played in the All-Star Futures Game. Yelich, 21, was hitting .280 with 26 extra-base hit and 29 RBIs in 49 games with Jacksonville when promoted to Miami on Monday night.
Good start: Left fielder Brandon Jacobs, the White Sox's newly aquired No. 7 prospect, had a hit in each of his first four games with Birmingham, including a double, and drove in three runs. He was obtained by Chicago from the Red Sox for veteran left-handed reliever Matt Thornton on July 12. Jacobs, 22, began the season with Salem in the Class A Advanced Carolina League, hitting 11 homers, and was 3-for-8 in three games with Portland of the Double-A Eastern League before being traded.
Power surge: Huntsville first baseman Jason Rogers followed up a three-homer game Saturday at Pensacola with his 14th blast Sunday against the Blue Wahoos. He had four hits and six RBIs on Saturday and was one behind Southern League-leader Dan Black of Birmingham with 60 RBIs through the weekend. Rogers, 25, had been battling a slight oblique strain that kept him out of the All-Star Game.