'Underappreciated' Arismendy Alcantara gets his shot with Cubs

'Underappreciated' Arismendy Alcantara gets his shot with Cubs
July 9, 2014, 1:45 pm
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Tony Andracki

Cubs fans will get a little taste of the future.

As Javier Baez and Kris Bryant set Twitter ablaze with each homer, Arismendy Alcantara has quietly flown under the radar and emerged as a core prospect.

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Now Alcantara gets his chance at the big-league level while Darwin Barney takes paternity leave for two days. Alcantara will be hitting second and playing second base on Wednesday night against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.

"He's been playing great," Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said. "His year is on a really good trajectory. He started off in April and struggled a little bit with his strike-zone control and he's been getting better and better every month.

"I feel like he's the underappreciated guy in our system. He's only 22. He's a switch-hitter. He's in Triple-A and no one talks about him because of guys like Baez and Bryant and [Albert] Almora. He has a chance to put up a pretty special year in Triple-A when you look at his doubles, triples, homers and stolen bases. Guys don't really do that at that age. We're excited for him.

"Everyone talks about the 'Core Four' reports and stuff like that. I think he certainly belongs in that group."

The Cubs signed Alcantara as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2008. He’s worked his way through the system, spending only a year at each level.

Alcantara burst onto the scene last year, posting an .804 OPS at Double-A Tennessee with 15 homers and 31 stolen bases while landing on the national radar with an upper-deck blast at Citi Field in the Futures Game.

In the offseason, Alcantara found his way onto top-prospect rankings for Baseball America (No. 100), MLB.com (No. 89) and Baseball Prospectus (No. 83). He soared up the rankings on the midseason editions released earlier this week, landing at No. 18 on Baseball Prospectus' list and No. 33 on Baseball America's.

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Alcantara has taken another step forward with Triple-A Iowa this year, raising his OPS to .890 with a .307/.353/.537 slash line. He's displayed his all-around game with 62 runs, 25 doubles, 11 triples, 10 homers, 41 RBI and 21 steals in 89 games.

"If you work hard every day and try to put everything together, something good can happen," Alcantara said last week. "And I think that's happening right now. I just try to play the game the right way and play hard. Everything's going well right now."

Since June 5, Alcantara is hitting .376 with a 1.019 OPS and 11 steals in 35 games, setting the tone for the Iowa lineup as the leadoff guy in front of Baez, Bryant and player-coach Manny Ramirez.

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Alcantara said he wasn't getting caught up in the rumors that a promotion to Chicago could be in the works.

"I feel good, but I don't know what they think about it," Alcantara said, referencing the front office. "I just try to play the game hard and if I'm going good, they'll know when I'm ready.

"I focus on what I can control, because that's the way I have to do it. I can't focus on something I can't control. If I focus on my game and my situation here, I can keep my mind relaxed. When you think too far, you can think some crazy things. I just keep calm and try to do the little things."

Listed at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, Alcantara has been called one of the fastest guys in the system and he’s putting on size as he fills out. He started out as a shortstop, but moved to second base to accommodate Baez last year in Tennessee.

Recently, the Cubs have been trying him out in center field, hoping to add to Alcantara's versatility. An ability to play three or four positions will help him stick around in the big leagues, especially as more top prospects make their journey to Chicago.

"I don't care which [position I'm at]," he said. "I just want to play the game. Second base, center field, shortstop, third base, it doesn't matter. I just want to play the game and be in the lineup every day."

For two days, at least, Cubs fans will get a look at the future.