The offseason madness has begun! Less than 24 hours after the World Series ended, Tigers general manager Al Avila traded center fielder Cameron Maybin to the Los Angeles Angels for pitching prospect Victor Alcantara.
Alcantara is a right-handed pitcher who the Angels signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2011. He has started games for most of his career, and fared well at first, posting a 2.32 ERA and 2.85 FIP in 15 games started with the Angels’ Rookie Ball affiliate in 2012. He struck out over a batter per inning that year, but red flags were there. His impressive strikeout totals were offset somewhat by awful control; he walked 14 percent of batters he faced, or 5.21 walks per nine innings.
Those red flags became much more concerning in 2013 when, at the same level, Alcantara maintained his high walk rate while his strikeout rate plummeted. This disastrous season ended with a horrifying 4.6 percent K-BB rate, .300 opponents’ batting average, and 1.83 WHIP. Unfortunately, the rest of his career has not gotten much better since 2013. His strikeout numbers improved in Single-A ball in 2014 and 2015, but he allowed a 4.30 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 111 innings at Double-A Arkansas in 2016.
Due to his continuing struggles as a starter at every level, Alcantara was transitioned to the bullpen towards the end of 2016, where his stuff should play up and his lack of control should be minimized.
His fastball and slider are spoken well of by just about everyone. Minor League Ball’s John Sickels praised Alcantara’s power arsenal.
Slider is plus when he is going well, change-up and command still need work, many see him as a reliever but the Angels will develop him as a starter as long as possible. High upside, high risk.
Good things were to be found on Twitter as well, both from prospect wizard Christopher Crawford and 2080 Baseball’s Emily Waldon.
Victor Alcantara an interesting get for Detroit. Has shown double-plus fastball and plus slider on occasion.— Christopher Crawford (@Crawford_MILB) November 3, 2016
I will say, the power slider is intriguing. Excited to see it in person. Now, to see about the command of that plus plus FB...— Emily Waldon (@emilywaldon2080) November 4, 2016
While the transition to relief is a nice idea in theory, the aforementioned red flags don’t automatically correct themselves. In a limited sample at the Arizona Fall League, Alcantara has walked more batters than he has struck out, and has allowed a .360 average.
There are other concerns too, spelled out nicely by Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser.
[When he was signed, Alcantara was] routinely hitting 100 mph with his fastball and sitting 95-98. The Angels let him start until mid-2016, when they shifted him to the bullpen with Double-A Arkansas. Alcantara’s control and secondary pitches—an upper-80s changeup and low-90s slider—never improved beyond fringe-average and his velocity dropped, now topping out at 97 and sitting 93-95. The result was the lowest strikeout rate of his career, 6.4 strikeouts per nine, this past season
A drop in velocity could spell doom for Alcantara, who has always thrived off of his heater, relying on the ability to blow guys away with a 100 mile-per-hour fastball.
While Alcantara is a bit redundant in the Tigers’ system, adding a prospect of any type is better than simply declining Maybin’s option. Although we may be disappointed in the return, we have to keep in mind something that was pointed out by TigsTown’s Mark Anderson on Twitter:
Remember, the #Tigers gave up Ian Krol and Gabe Speier for Maybin. Don't expect a big return from Angels.— Mark Anderson (@ProspectMark) November 3, 2016
Whether the Tigers can get Alcantara under control and see him evolve into a useful piece remains to be seen, though.