Get Alcantara At-Bats, Just Not At The Major League Level

(Jose M. Osorio/ Chicago Tribune)

(Jose M. Osorio/ Chicago Tribune)

The Cubs need production from Arismendy Alcantara and that is why he should be sent down to Triple-A Iowa. The 23-year-old homegrown prospect brings a great amount of value to a major league ball club. His versatility allows him to man pretty much every position and bring about positive production wherever he plays. It could be argued that Alcantara is the Cubs’ best defensive infielder. He also has speed and a good amount of pop in his 5’10”, 170 pound frame. Arismendy, or ‘Mendy for the hip folks, is a switch hitter, which makes life much easier for managers who like to play the lefty/righty match up game.

Alcantara was signed by the Cubs out of the Dominican Republic when he was 17-years-old and is now in his seventh season in the organization. Each year he progressively improved, often showcasing his versatility in the field and value at the plate. Last season in the minors prior to his call-up, Alcantara had double digit triples, doubles, home runs and stolen bases to his credit. That’s a pretty impressive feat.

After advancing a level in the minor leagues each year ‘Mendy was with the Cubs, he finally reached the majors at 22-years-old last season. He showcased the same kind of value the Cubs enjoyed seeing him produce in the minor leagues and a decision was made after Darwin Barney recovered from his injury to let him stay on the 25-man roster for the remainder of the year. Alcantara appeared in 73 games in his first stint in the big leagues and played more than half in center field and the rest at second base.

At the plate Alcantara showcased his power in 2014, hitting 10 home runs, 11 doubles, and using his speed to gather two triples. He also stole some bases (8), but got caught more than he had hoped (5 caught stealing). He finished with a .205 average and a .621 OPS in exactly 300 plate appearances last season. That is not too bad for a 22-year-old making his first crack at the big league level. You would like to see the average at a higher number, but I’ll give the kid a break.

What is bad, however, is his strikeout percentage and low walk rate. Though ‘Mendy provided value in the field and showed flashes of goodness at the plate, his .254 on base percentage and 31% K rate is something that needs major improvement. He struck out 93 times last season while managing just 17 walks. Right now the Cubs would like Alcantara to make more contact, as strikeouts have been a big problem for the young slugger in the latter stages of his development in the minor leagues.

So what is going on with him this season? Well, in 32 plate appearances Alcantara has struck out 11 times (34%) and owns just two hits (one being a walk off single – woo!). With the way this current roster is constructed, Joe Maddon has a lot of versatile pieces at his disposal he can mix and match with. Alcantara seems to be the perfect guy for Maddon to plug into an everyday lineup, but ‘Mendy’s struggles have forced Maddon to turn to other options.

Jonathan Herrera, who had himself a successful Spring, has been getting the nod ahead of Alcantara lately. With the Tommy La Stella injury, as well as Mike Olt being placed on the disabled list with a hand fracture, Herrera has seen a good amount of time that could have been Alcantara’s. The difference between Alcantara and the 30-year-old Herrera is the consistency of their at-bats. In 24 plate appearances Herrera has struck out just one time.

With an experienced Herrera manning second base over Alcantara, it leaves the 23-year-old looking for an opportunity anywhere he can get it and so far things have not gone his way. For the Cubs’ and Alcantara’s sake, it would be beneficial if ‘Mendy got regular at-bats at Iowa. Right now isn’t an ideal time for the Cubs to be sending down a bench player who could fill in at any position due to injuries, but with the possible return of Tommy La Stella this week it would make sense for him to take Alcantara’s roster spot.

I know Jed Hoyer does not like to send prospects down after they had already been in the big leagues for a period and then call them up again at a later date, but Alcantara’s situation might force his hand. Consistent plate appearances and quality at-bats is something Alcantara is lacking early on this season. A trip to Iowa would be a good thing for the young utility man because it would allow him to sharpen his approach and get regular playing time.

The beauty about Alcantara’s situation is that he is still young and has time to grow. He has time to fix his career 31% strikeout rate. He can grow into a guy who can hit 20 doubles and steal 20 bases, while also putting out double digit home runs. Allowing Alcantara to work on his game early this season will allow him to be ready come June or July — maybe even sooner. It isn’t the end of this young man’s career if he gets sent down because remember, he’s only 23-years-old.

Sending Alcantara down now will only help him and the Cubs in the long run. He is a key part in the Cubs’ formula of success so they should put him in a position to succeed. Sitting on the bench at the major league level is not his place.