After flying under the radar for years, Arismendy Alcantara’s become the player everyone wants to talk about now.
Rick Renteria got at least eight Alcantara questions during a pregame media session that lasted eight-plus minutes. The Cubs manager liked what he saw from Alcantara, hitting leadoff and playing center during Saturday’s 11-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field.
“He looked very smooth,” Renteria said. “He looked exactly the way he did, quite frankly, in batting practice the other day. He’s obviously an athlete. He obviously has a feel. It looks like his reactions and his routes — at least for this day — were good. Very composed.”
Alcantara, who went 2-for-5 with two runs scored, doesn’t know how long the Cubs will keep him up here, but it looks like he belongs.
“I’ll stay here and do whatever they want me to,” Alcantara said. “I just try to do my job every time I come to the field.”
That combination of speed and versatility could make Alcantara the super-utility guy on the contending teams Theo Epstein’s front office envisions for the future.
“He could be, but I don’t want to pigeonhole him into a particular position like that,” Renteria said. “He has the athleticism to do it. But I think all things always depend on the need of the ballclub.
“We’ll just kind of see how it all plays out. Fortunately for us, we got a little taste of what he can do. Those will probably be conversations that we will all have along the way.”
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The Cubs appear to have a surplus of up-the-middle players after trading Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland A’s in a package built around shortstop Addison Russell. At age 24, Starlin Castro will be heading to his third All-Star Game. Javier Baez forced Alcantara to move from shortstop to second base last year at Double-A Tennessee.
Team officials rave about Albert Almora’s defensive instincts in center, though the 2012 first-round pick is at advanced Class-A Daytona. Two more first-round picks — Triple-A Iowa third baseman Kris Bryant and Class-A Kane County catcher Kyle Schwarber — could ultimately move to corner-outfield spots. Jorge Soler, the $30 million Cuban outfielder, is back in the picture at Tennessee.
For an organization with options, Alcantara’s an ideal fit because he can switch-hit, play all over the field defensively and contribute in different ways. The Cubs are finding that out, already extending Alcantara’s stay after Darwin Barney’s two-day paternity leave.
Alcantara jumpstarted the Cubs by nearly hitting for the cycle in Thursday’s win over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. He helped manufacture Friday’s game-winning run with a single and a stolen base against the Braves in front of 39,544 at Clark and Addison.
Alcantara is only 22 years old, but he already has more than 2,200 plate appearances on his minor-league resume. He’s jumped from No. 100 on Baseball America’s rankings to the 33rd prospect on its midseason list. He earned this promotion by hitting .307 with 10 homers, 11 triples, 25 doubles, 41 RBIs and 21 stolen bases at Iowa.
Does this guy have anything left to prove in Des Moines? Publicly, Renteria continues to be noncommittal about keeping Alcantara around after the All-Star break.
“He’s obviously shown that he can perform,” Renteria said. “When we get together as an organization, we will discuss those things. We have to take a lot of the factors into consideration. We’ll hopefully come to a good conclusion, a decision that’s the best for us as a club and best for the organization.”