The Immediately Fantasy-Relevant Arismendy Alcantara

Arismendy Alcantara came in fifth on the Cubs’ preseason Top 10 prospects list here at FanGraphs, and was a consensus Top 100 prospect in baseball. His stock only rose further as this season went on, as he put up consistently great numbers in Triple-A. His .307/.353/.537 slash — with ten homers and 21 steals — made it seem like his arrival as a five-category fantasy middle infielder was more a question of ‘when’ than ‘if.’

Since he arrived in the majors just over a week ago, Alcantara has been every bit as good as advertised, hitting .286/.316/.543 with a homer and three steals in 38 plate appearances. His performance thus far should be more than enough to keep him in the major-league lineup; expect either Mike Olt (.142/.226/.361, 38.9% K-rate) or Junior Lake (.219/.246/.385, 34.1% K-rate) to be the odd man out on the 25-man roster when Emilio Bonifacio returns, and Darwin Barney (.230/.265/.328) sure isn’t doing anything to demand his starting job back.

I had the opportunity to see Alcantara play in Triple-A a couple weeks ago, just before he got the call to the majors. I came away highly impressed and intrigued by his five-category fantasy potential. His speed and baserunning instincts are both easy pluses, as he went 52-for-61 in stolen-base attempts between Double-A and Triple-A, an 85.2% success rate (he’s already 3-for-3 in the majors). He has very good pure speed, and he gets to his top gear quickly. When I saw him, he showed off his wheels on a double to the right-center gap on which he was absolutely flying as he rounded first.

I like his hit tool a great deal as well, as his compact swing and excellent bat speed allow him to barrel up just about anything, which explains the surprising pop he showcases for a guy who stands 5’10”, 160 pounds. His isolated power was .180 in Double-A in 2013, and increased to .230 this year in Triple-A (he’s at .257 so far in his brief major-league stint). He also showed very good plate coverage and the ability to hit the ball with authority to all fields. For example, check out this opposite-field double he hit earlier this month:

The switch-hitting 22-year-old is nearly the exact same hitter from each side of the plate, erasing any concerns about a need to platoon him either way. In his minor-league career, Alcantara possesses a .297/.353/.452 slash against lefties (.805 OPS) and .281/.332/.443 line against righties (.775 OPS).

The negatives with Alcantara are pretty few and far between, but his aggressive approach is one that stands out. He’s a bit of a free-swinger, which leads to a pretty high whiff rate — his swinging strike percentage was 12.1% between Double-A and Triple-A. His plate discipline stats in Triple-A reflect this weakness, as he posted a 6.8% BB-rate and 22.7% K-rate. Still, his hit tool is good enough that I’m not terribly concerned about his ability to maintain a solid batting average.

When it comes down to it, there isn’t a whole lot that does concern me about Alcantara’s major-league potential, or his fantasy value, for that matter. I suppose he’s been overlooked a bit simply because he’s in the same organization as Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler and now Addison Russell, but make no mistake — Alcantara has a sky-high ceiling in his own right.

For rest-of-season fantasy purposes, he may not rack up the runs or RBI thanks to the fact that he plays for the Cubs, but that should be mitigated a bit if he keeps hitting near the top of the lineup. It’s easy to project another 10-15 steals, paired with 6-8 homers and a solid average. Even in mixed leagues, Alcantara looks the part of a legitimate fantasy middle-infield option.

Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.

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Having never seen him before, I watched his PAs during his first series after being called up. I knew of his swing-happy reputation, and I was prepared to cringe at his hackitude. I didn’t see it. I saw him lay off of not only balls outside the zone, but also pitcher’s pitch strikes. I so enjoyed his smart, short-to-the-ball approach that I ended up putting him above Odor in my personal fantasy rankings.