One of the most important factors to a rebuild in modern day baseball is hitting on top draft picks. They don’t need to be perfect — the Houston Astros drafted Mark Appel, after all — but whiffing on multiple first round picks is not a recipe for success. However, it’s equally important for teams to find hidden talent that others have missed. The Astros took a risk on a diminutive infielder, and he just won an MVP. Dallas Keuchel and Kyle Hendricks, among others, played important roles on the last two World Series champions.
I don’t have any inside information on infielder Arismendy Alcantara. Everything I know about the one-time Chicago Cub is freely available on the internet. Here are the major points:
- He plays multiple positions, including second base
- He is only 26 years old
- He is a free agent with fewer than two years of MLB service time under his belt
That last point is the most important. It tells us that Alcantara has been so bad as a big leaguer that no one felt it important enough to stick him on their 40-man roster through the Rule 5 draft, nor promising enough to sign him to a major league contract yet. He hit .171/.187/.248 in 108 plate appearances with the Cincinnati Reds last year. That’s bad.
However, that third bullet point also hints at a hidden opportunity.
If a team — say, the Detroit Tigers — were to sign Alcantara and unlock some sort of offensive potential, they would have a useful player under club control for five more seasons. For a Tigers team that could already use another infielder, a dart throw like Alcantara makes sense.
Again, I don’t know anything about Alcantara that will sweeten his profile. His numbers were awful last year, and the Statcast numbers aren’t any better. His average exit velocity of 81.6 miles per hour was only slightly better than Jacob deGrom, pitcher. Andrew Romine was far better. Jose Iglesias was far better. Ryan Raburn not only played baseball last year, but was also far better than Alcantara.
Defensively, Alcantara is a Swiss Army knife. He played six different positions last year, including all three outfield spots. He hasn’t compiled a large enough sample to reliably trust advanced defensive metrics, but scouts have always liked his glove, even up the middle. He has a strong enough arm to play anywhere on the diamond.
If this profile sounds familiar, it is. Dixon Machado is a very similar player defensively, and seems to have a better eye at the plate. However, Alcantara has always had more offensive upside, especially in the power department. As recently as 2016, he hit 12 home runs in 108 games at Triple-A. He also added 22 doubles, 11 triples, and 32 stolen bases, albeit in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
There’s no guarantee that Alcantara ever reaches his full potential. Baseball is hard, and we can rattle off failed top prospects all day long. But for how well Alcantara fits in Detroit — he’s still young, cheap, and fills a legitimate hole on the current roster — there’s little reason for the Tigers to not take a shot here.