There was quite a surprise in store for scouts and organization executives at the 2013 Futures Game. His name is Arismendy Alcantara. He plays middle infield for Double-A Tennessee in the Southern League.
Much of the chatter regarding Cubs prospects is generated by shortstop Javier Baez, outfielder Jorge Soler and outfielder Albert Almora. Alcantara should be added to the buzz list.
In 2008, the Cubs signed Alcantara as a 17-year-old international player from the Dominican Republic. He began his career playing in the Dominican Summer League, hitting a respectable .275. Alcantara had three triples and 11 doubles among his 71 hits.
Since then, Alcantara has systematically progressed through the Cubs' system with an annual promotion to the next highest league. His rise hasn't gone unnoticed, coming in at eighth on the Cubs' Top 20 Prospects List.
Alcantara has quietly fashioned a .280 career Minor League average covering parts of five seasons and 1,765 plate appearances. He has stolen 86 bases.
Alcantara has also played every infield position with the exception of first base. At Tennessee, he is playing second base and some shortstop along with highly prized Cubs prospect Baez.
I believe Alcantara projects best at second base. He is slight of build at 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds. Alcantara is 21, and while he may add some muscle to his upper body, there likely won't be much of a growth spurt.
A switch-hitter, Alcantara has surprising power for his size. He has strong hands with a quick, slightly uppercut swing that generates enough loft to clear the fences. Alcantara also has the capability to drive the ball to both gaps. As he showed in his rookie year, extra-base hits are his specialty.
I observed four very reliable tools in scouting Alcantara. First, he has the speed to steal bases, take the extra base and ultimately, score runs. Equal to the speed is Alcantara's raw power, which can break a game open or change the direction of a game. As he showed in the Futures Game, Alcantara can hit the ball a long, long way. He has a strong and accurate arm from anywhere in the infield. Alcantara's hitting has been proven and projects to continue to develop.
Alcantara's ability to play day-to-day stellar defense is a work in progress. Continued repetition and hard work will close the gap with those issues.
Alcantara has the range to play shortstop, but his movements aren't as natural and as fluid as they may be with continued work. Error prone at times, he is so "into the game" he may get ahead of himself with his footwork and first-step movement. It seems as though Alcantara accelerates every phase of the game. Dialing it down a notch on defense should make a difference.
Alcantara's name is not quite yet on the lips of Cubs fans. That could change sometime soon.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.