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2018 BYB Tigers Prospect #22: SS Sergio Alcantara has the best glove in the system

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The slick fielding shortstop may be the Tigers’ future utility man.

Alazanes de Granma v Tigres de Licey - Caribbean Series Culiacan 2017 Photo by Luis Gutierrez/Jam Media/Latin Content/Getty Images

Shortstop Sergio Alcantara came to Detroit from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the J.D. Martinez deal. He was considered the second piece to infielder Dawel Lugo at the time, but in retrospect he is no less valuable as a prospect. Alcantara’s outstanding glove work, speed, and the ability to switch hit all foretell a final product with useful tools at major league level.

For three seasons now, the Detroit Tigers have hoped to see a breakout season at the plate from shortstop Jose Iglesias. For three years, Iglesias’ inability to hit right-handed pitching and his subpar baserunning have sapped the value of one the elite gloves in the game today. With the shortstop position in the midst of an offensive renaissance, a player like Iglesias isn’t long for a starting role. At the moment, Dixon Machado, a player with similar strengths and weaknesses, is next in line.

Unfortunately, at his best Alcantara profiles as being more of the same. Like Iglesias, his innate ability to put the bat on the ball is undone by a distinct lack of power when he does. Things would really have to come together physically for Alcantara to to be anything more than a glove-only utility man.

Background

Alcantara hails from the Dominican Republic and will turn 22 in June. He was signed as an international free agent by the Diamondbacks in 2012. After an undistinguished set of teenage seasons in rookie ball, Alcantara emerged as a bona fide prospect in 2016. He jumped four levels from rookie ball, reaching Advanced-A for a handful of games in that, his age 20 season. The Tigers added Alcantara to their 40-man roster back in November to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.

Strengths

Alcantara is a superb defender and it’s his obvious calling card. Possessing fine hands, a good instincts and outstanding arm strength, Alcantara could probably play plus defense in the major leagues already. Bernie Pleskoff of FanRag Sports thought that defensive ability made him an underrated pickup for the Tigers.

Scouts I spoke with at the game agreed with my impression that Alcantara is a very special defender with soft hands, good range, and that cannon for an arm. He isn’t fast, but he is far from slow. He has a solid first step, and somehow, some way, he gets to balls hit anywhere in his area code.

As a switch-hitter, Alcantara has a path to produce strong on base percentages than other light hitting infielders of his ilk. Of course, that assumes he can successfully hit from both sides, which isn’t a proven skill yet. He has shown some plate discipline at the Single-A levels, and does not strike out too much. The ability to put the bat on the ball is there.

Just a year ago, the folks at 2080 Baseball were more optimistic about Alcantara, projecting that his contact ability and gap power would improve as he filled out.

His wirey frame has room for some physical projection and, while he is not there yet, he should soon add strength to the already smooth actions and very good body control. He shows a good feel for the strike zone, will see pitches and does not look overmatched. The bat speed is just average, maybe a tick above, but the barrel control is above average and while he is not doing much damage at the present, when the strength sets in he should find some gap power.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much sign of that in 2017.

Weaknesses

Alcantara’s biggest weakness is his slight frame. Standing 5’9 and weighing 168 pounds, the slender shortstop just doesn’t drive the ball enough to project as a future major league hitter. He consistently pull balls on the ground from both sides of the plate and, despite decent walk rates in 2017, is still a bit of a free-swinger with good hands and no pop.

Alcantara has also yet to prove that he can survive as a switch-hitter. He posted better numbers and drew more positive reviews for his approach as a right-handed hitter. That undercuts any optimism about him avoiding the kind of splits that crush Jose Iglesias’ value. To further the Iglesias comparison, Alcantara doesn’t run any better than average and hasn’t shown much ability to steal bases.

In 2017, 19 of 22 qualified shortstops hit 10 or more home runs. Eleven of those players stole 10 bases or more. It’s very difficult these days to make it as a starting shortstop without packing at least modest thump at the plate. If Alcantara had a little more raw power or speed, he’d be easier to forecast for a potential starting role at the major league level. As it stands, he still needs things to come together to fulfill his likely ceiling as a future bench piece.

Projected Team: Double-A Erie

Alcantara spent the whole season at the Advanced-A level in 2017. However, there has to be some concern at how he’ll handle the jump to Double-A Erie. An uninspiring performance at the plate in the Dominican Winter League didn’t alleviate those concerns. The question is whether the Tigers even have reason to handle him with care at this point. He’s almost certainly not the Tigers’ starting shortstop of the future. Should he manage to pack on some muscle and show a bit of power, that assessment can be reconsidered. With Isaac Paredes coming up behind him, look for Alcantara to make the jump to Erie early in 2018, if not right out of the gate.