Signed in 2009 at the age of 17, Arismendy Alcantara made his stateside debut in short-season ball a year later. He's progressed at a level per year, despite never accruing more than 369 at-bats in a season. He broke out in 2012, putting his considerable tools to use for the first time, but suffered a broken foot in July and missed the rest of the season. Despite the shortened season, Alcantara received a bump up to Double-A, perhaps in part so that Cubs top prospect Javier Baez could see time at shortstop in a league that challenges him.
It's a challenge to Alcantara as well, proving that his impressive 2012 was no fluke, and he's off to a good start. He's cooled down recently, but his slash line is still a solid .255/.330/.404 in 24 games. That's nothing to go crazy over, but given the jump in level (it's often said the jump from Hi-A to Double-A is the second biggest jump after Triple-A to the majors) and there are some very encouraging signs thus far. Despite a batting average almost 50 points lower than last year, Alcantara's OBP is a mere 9 points lower, as he's totaled 11 walks on the young season compared to 19 all of last year. Alcantara is also showing the same amount of power while moving up a level. He's hit four home runs and is more than halfway to equaling his season high of seven, set last year. That said, his power isn't necessarily burgeoning so much as holding steady, as he's only roped two doubles on the year and has an ISO of .149 compared to .145 last year. While his batting average has dropped, I remain unconcerned for two reasons: 1) It's April and there's a lot of variance going on right now due to sample size, and 2) He's got a BABIP of .294 thus far, despite never completing a season with one below .337, so I expect some regression there.
Some see Alcantara as a second baseman in the end, but he has the tools to remain at shortstop. He was rated as having the best infield arm in the Florida State League in 2012 per Baseball America, and shows good range and quickness in the field. He does suffer some mental lapses leading to high error totals. Alcantara is a switch-hitter and produces from both sides of the plate. He's not big, but produces solid power using his quick hands to generate power. He makes solid contact, though is not a contact only hitter with a strikeout rate of 17% in 2012. That rate has jumped up over 21% so far in 2013, but he's also doubled his walk rate from 5% to 10%. Increased plate awareness is a big step for Alcantara as it should result in more pitches that he can drive. Despite knowing his listed height/weight was 5'10/160 lbs, I was still surprised to see how slight Alcantara was when I watched him on MiLBtv. Though he's slight, the power he's shown is real and he could continue to get stronger as he fills out his frame. He has plus speed and an idea of how to use it on the basepaths, swiping 25 of 29 bases in 2012 and already pilfering 12 of 15 on this young season.
I'm encouraged that in about one third of the plate appearances, Alcantara is either halfway or has passed halfway to many of his career highs set last season. I'm also encouraged that he's upped his walk rate significantly despite moving up a little, though that is offset slightly by his increased strikeout rate. All in all, Alcantara is definitely a middle infielder and should be able to provide a solid average, 8-12 home runs and plenty of stolen bases from a relatively scarce position. If you're in leagues with deep minors, this is a guy worth owning. The star potential isn't there, but I'm confident that he's a productive major leaguer, even if it is a borderline first division type player.