Winning consistently on the North Side is not far away (presumably) and fans are getting restless. During what is now the third year of a total rebuild headed by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, the product put on the major league field has been less than stellar to say the least.
Although the Cubs are among Major League Baseball’s highest grossing markets, lately they’re being confused with clubs who are considered “small market teams” such as the Royals, Rays and Athletics due to their nonexistent spending sprees in recent offseasons the likes of “large market teams” such as the Yankees, Dodgers and Phillies made over the past three years.
As a result, almost 200 losses were accumulated over the first two seasons of the Epstein-Hoyer regime, while the third is shaping to be no different than the previous two. By investing elsewhere during three separate offseasons, Cubs upper management has shaped what is now considered one of the top minor league systems in all of baseball. Spending in the draft, internationally and locking up core major league players, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, for the long run has set up the Cubs to be successful long-term; so we hope. (Its not like they didn’t try to sign big name free agents, they just lost several bidding wars. ie: Yu Darvish, Yoenis Cespedes, Anibal Sanchez and Masahiro Tanaka).
For the Cubs to be contenders, hope lies within the all mighty Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and soundly proclaimed superstar-in-the-making Kyle Schwarber. Hoyer has made himself perfectly clear (although, apparently not clear enough because people still ask) by saying Kris Bryant will not be called up to the majors any time in the near future and Javier Baez still has work to do in Triple-A to have a chance at playing at Wrigley by August or September.
That doesn’t mean all is lost, ever-hoping Cubs fan, as there is a player in the farm who’s last name doesn’t start with a ‘B’ and may be ready to make a jump to the major league level.
Arismendy Alcantara has been a part of the Chicago Cubs organization since he was 17 and is just about ready to leap the final hurdle into the big leagues. Alcantara, a 22-year-old switch-hitting utility player from the Dominican Republic, is working on his sixth year in the Cubs’ minor league system, advancing a level after each season.
This is a prospect many around the Cubs organization are very high on due to his plus speed, sneaky power and his ability to play any position — oh, being a switch hitter is nice too. Alcantara has just over 1900 at bats in six minor league seasons — a sample size large enough for him to be considered a call up candidate — and has never had an average dip below .271 at any level.
Last year at double A Tennessee, Alcantara hit .271/.352/.451 with 36 doubles, 4 triples, 15 home runs, 69 RBIs and stole a career high 31 bases and was caught only 6 times. He was also a part of the 2013 futures game. This year, in such a key developmental season at Triple-A Iowa, the super utility man is making the adjustment quite well. Alcantara is hitting .310/.350/.546 with 22 doubles, a Pacific Coast League leading 11 triples, 10 home runs, 40 RBIs and 20 steals.
His recent success is even more encouraging, which heightens the pressure on Hoyer to make the call up. Alcantara was awarded Pacific Coast League’s player of the week from the June 22-29 period by batting .517 with eight runs scored. Currently he’s the owner of a 12 game hitting streak and a .475/.488/.775 — 1.263 OPS — line with four doubles, a triple, two home runs and three stolen bases over his last 10 games. Alcantara capped off his impressive stretch with being rewarded to the Pacific Coast League All-Star Game. Similar to Kris Bryant, who was called up to Triple A Iowa after the Double A All-Star Game, Alcantara may find himself one class ahead quickly after the mid-season classic.
A question, of course, is whether or not the 22-year-old can adjust to major league pitching. He’s currently striking out at just under 25 percent of the time, which is a number that’s not awful but would be nice to see improved. His walk rate isn’t anything to boast about, currently standing at 6.7 percent, but its not a real surprise that a free swinger such as Alcantara has the rather low rate. On the defensive side, he owns a career fielding percentage of .916, and that’s accounting for both middle infield spots, third base and outfield. Not too shabby.
The Cubs preach patience when it comes to calling up young contributors from the minor leagues. Promoting a player too early exposes him too quickly which hurts their developmental process, I get that. What I don’t get is the continued sell of feeble major league talent sprinkled with a couple young stars that are begging for a speck of constant competitiveness. At some point the product at Wrigley Field must not consist of “what if” players attempting to resurrect their already doomed careers (ie: Ian Stewert, Chris Volstad, Bryan freaking Lahair, Justin Germano, Scott Baker, Donnie Murphy, Cody Ransom…you get the picture).
It’s getting close to that time where you must see what you have waiting in the wings at the minor league level with all these potential stars that may make up what is eventually a World Series contender. Alcantara is the first of many who may get a chance to prove themselves worthy of competing at the game’s hardest level very soon.
Several scenarios can arise for the Cubs to force Jed Hoyer to make a move. Currently, Emilio Bonifacio is rehabbing a rib injury and barring any other injury or possible demotion, Alcantara should be next in line. The trade deadline is quickly approaching as well, and it’s obvious the Cubs are open for business. Its very possible for them to move position players like Nate Schierholtz, Darwin Barney, previously mentioned Bonifacio, or whomever; which in turn would make room for Alcantara to show off his stuff.
Alcantara’s call up could come sooner than the deadline as its apparent he’s major league ready. With his improved strides regarding plate discipline, its very likely Alcantara could be a .270 hitter with 15 homers and 20+ steals annually in the big leagues. Adjusting to any position at the major league level won’t be too difficult for the super utility man, given his strong arm. Its just another top 100 prospect in the Cubs farm system that’s on the verge of becoming a major league regular.
For a team that’s in a position the Cubs currently find themselves, I have to ask: What’s the hold up?