Alcántara's breakout; Joc hitting lefties

June 13th, 2021

CHICAGO -- One of the stories of this season for the Cubs has been the out-of-nowhere impact by overlooked players.

Right-hander completed a rise from independent ball to The Show and is featuring wipeout breaking stuff out of the Cubs' bullpen. went from journeyman to now launching homers as a middle-of-the-order bat. And the latest example has been .

"It's been a nice pleasant surprise," Cubs manager David Ross said.

Recent injuries to infielders David Bote, Nico Hoerner, Matt Duffy and others opened a door of opportunity for Alcántara to get playing time up the middle lately for Chicago. All the 24-year-old infielder has done is churn out seven extra-base hits in his first 13 games.

In Saturday's 7-2 win over St. Louis, Alcántara launched a homer in the third inning. On Friday afternoon, he ripped a pitch to the wall in right-center and legged out an RBI triple to help power an 8-5 win over the Cardinals.

"I had never seen him play," Cubs hitting coach Anthony Iapoce said. "So, I have no judgement on him or anything. You can look at his numbers, but things that I heard were he was going to give you really good at-bats, he's a contact hitter. He was able to take some chances and drive the ball. I hope he keeps doing it."

The Cubs claimed Alcántara off waivers from the Tigers in February, but they later designated him for assignment after the offseason signing of Brandon Workman (no longer with the team). Alcántara stayed in the organization, got off to a hot start with Triple-A Iowa (.940 OPS in 20 games) and found his way to the Cubs when Bote landed on the 10-day injured list on May 30.

Since then, Ross has looked for ways to keep Alcántara involved in the middle-infield rotation. That has included filling in for Javier Báez at short, sharing time with Eric Sogard at second and making a cameo at third.

"I'm really thankful to David Ross," Alcántara said recently via a translator. "Just for the support and the trust that he's shown in me. It's something that I'm really grateful and happy for, just getting to be here. He's really trusted me."

Pederson vs. lefties
The Cubs promised to give left fielder a chance to face lefties more often this season, following a career spent mostly as a platoon player for the Dodgers. Overall, he was hitting .225 with a .242 wOBA and 53 wRC+ against left-handers going into Sunday, but that does not tell the whole story.

Dating back to May 4, when Pederson returned from a stint on the injured list, he had hit .296 with a .304 wOBA and 93 wRC+ off southpaws, as of Saturday. Pederson's two-run double in Friday's win came off a 98 mph heater from lefty Génesis Cabrera.

"For the most part," Ross said, "I think he's done a nice job off left-handers, hitting the ball, having his at-bats. I don't know what his numbers are right off the top of my head, but I feel like he's had really good at-bats."

Báez out of lineup
Báez was in Ross' original lineup for Sunday, but the manager scratched the shortstop due to a right thumb issue. Ross said Báez would use Sunday to receive treatment on the hand. Alcántara started at shortstop in his place.

"This morning, not feeling great," Ross said. "I don't want to take any risks."

Báez missed three games in San Diego earlier this week due to a similar injury, but Ross said the shortstop did not hurt it on a swing this time. In the ninth on Saturday, Báez dove over a side wall up the left-field line in pursuit of a Nolan Arenado foul ball. The shortstop could be seen flexing and looking at his hand after that play.

"When you get back to the big leagues and have some success on a winning team, and people take you lightly, that's a powerful thing. I made a career off of being taken lightly. You can sneak attack guys every once in a while. But I think he's a really good player. He's done a ton for us." -- Ross, on Alcántara