The Cubs have an amazing wealth of young talent on their hands. Everyone is already drooling over Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Addison Russell and Jorge Soler but it doesn't end with that studly foursome. Kyle Schwarber was the 4th pick of last year's draft, Albert Almora is a promising outfield prospect, C.J. Edwards is a stud pitching prospect, outfielder Billy McKinney arrived in the Samardzija trade from Oakland, Pierce Johnson is an under the radar starting pitcher and Dan Vogelbach is a slugging first base prospect. With all those riches it is easy to see how the young Arismendy Alcantara could get lost in the shuffle.
The 23 year old switch hitter came up through the minors as a shortstop but when it became clear his path was blocked by Starlin Castro, Baez and Russell he was shifted to second base and center field . The weak-hitting Darwin Barney may be a wizard with the glove but his bat was not going to block Alcantara. At midseason last year Barney was promptly traded off to the Dodgers and Alcantara took over the keystone position for the Cubs. He played there for about a month before the promotion of Baez, who took over at second, pushing Alcantara to center field. All this is important because it showcases his ability to play all over the field, which is going to be a major factor in his fantasy value because once again Alcantara has nowhere to play. Over the winter the Cubs traded for Dexter Fowler to take over in center. Now where is AA going to play? This is getting to be a real problem. Luckily for him the Cubs traded Luis Valbuena, opening up third base. To open the season Alcantara is penciled in as the starting third baseman, but guess what? Elite prospect Kris Bryant plays third base and he is likely to get called to the majors early this season. Sheesh. After that it is possible that Alcantara will take over in left field from Chris Coghlan.
As you can see, playing time is going to be a real problem for Alcantara. The good news is he is very versatile on defense, which should keep him on the field nearly every day. Worst case scenario is he becomes a super-utility player. If he hits like he is capable the Cubs will surely find a way to keep his bat in the lineup.
Alcantara is not a big guy at all (5'10", 170 lbs), but he hits the ball hard. He hit 20 home runs last year combined between the majors and minors. He hit 15 in Double A in 2013. He also steals bases, 29 last year and 31 the year before. So we are looking at a player with eligibility at 2B, 3B and outfield who hits for power and steals bases. That sounds like a very valuable commodity for your fantasy team.
The worry with Alcantara is the batting average. He didn't strike out a tremendous amount in the minors but when confronted with major league breaking balls for the first time last year his strikeout rate shot up to 31%. Not only that, the strikeouts got worse as the year progressed. Pitchers quickly discovered that Alcantara chases breaking balls in the dirt nearly every time, so what did they do? They started throwing him a TON of breaking balls in the dirt. He struck out 41% of the time in September, leading to a pathetic .176/.195/.341 slash line that month. I am sure the Cubs had Alcantara spend the entire offseason working on hitting (or laying off of) breaking balls, but unless he fixes that flaw real fast he could find himself in the minor leagues for a good chunk of the season, hurting those of us unlucky enough to draft him.
Now you see there are two things that make Alcantara such a risky draft pick this year: uncertain playing time in a crowded Cubs lineup and a possible demotion to the minors.
I believe Alcantara will eventually end up being a very valuable fantasy player with multi-position eligibility, a potent bat and plenty of stolen bases. Will it happen this year? Maybe in spurts but probably not with any consistency.
If he does hold on to a starting role this year Alcantara could bat .240, hit 15-20 home runs, score 65 times, drive in 70 runs and steal 25 bases. Those are conservative estimates since he is likely to bat 8th in the Cub's batting order. There is also the possibility he hits .175 in April and gets sent to the minors. If he stays on the field the counting stats should look nice but he could put a hurting on your team batting average. In the long run I can see Alcantara becoming a Ben Zobrist type of player with eligibility all over the field who contributes in all 5 fantasy categories.
In dynasty and keeper leagues it makes a lot of sense to invest in Alcantara now before he has his inevitable breakout season in the next couple years. In re-draft leagues I would stay away from Alcantara unless you can snag him in the last couple rounds of your draft where there is no risk. If you get him cheaply he could pay off big if he finds a position to play every day and solves his whiffing problem. If he doesn't you can cut him with no harm done. Just don't invest too much in the guy and you will be fine even if he doesn't prove himself this year.