Joe Maddon has had his eye on Arismendy Alcantara since he landed the Cubs job. Maddon monitored Alcantara’s progress closely in Winter Ball while speaking highly about him throughout the off-season. And based on reports from Mesa, Maddon has really liked what he’s seen so far in camp from the 23-year old utility man.
Arismendy Alcantara struggled with making adjustments last year at the big league level. Alcantara batted only .205/.254/.367 in 70 games with 11 doubles, two triples and 10 home runs for a .621 OPS. Alcantara struck out 93 times in 300 plate appearances with just 17 walks.
While the big league numbers were not good, Alcantara ended up with a 20-20 season between Triple-A Iowa and the Cubs with a combined 36 doubles and 13 triples.
The front office went over the adjustments Alcantara needed to make in the off-season. After a short break, Alcantara reported to Winter Ball and ended up playing in 19 games for Licey. Alcantara hit .324/.395/.544 (22-for-68) with a double, a triple and four home runs for a .939 OPS. In 68 at bats, Alcantara walked seven times with 15 strikeouts.
Maddon was impressed with the adjustments Alcantara made in the Dominican Republic and made the comment in December, “Alcantara is having a great winter. He’s kicking butt down in Winter Ball right now.”
The front office was happy with the progress Alcantara made defensively in center and were willing to start the season with him as their everyday centerfielder if they were not able to acquire a player that gave the team an upgrade defensively.
The Cubs reportedly made a strong push to acquire Ben Zobrist from the Rays. But after he was traded to Oakland, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer pulled the trigger on the deal with Houston and landed Dexter Fowler. With Fowler in the fold, Alcantara was bumped to a back-up, or utility role, as long as Javier Baez could hang onto the second base job.
Joe Maddon spent a lot of time reviewing video of his players with the team’s coordinators while he was in Chicago for the convention. And he walked away even more impressed with Arismendy Alcantara.
“This guy [Arismendy Alcantara] is really impressive on film. Easy, easy kind of approach. Easy kind of a swing where the ball comes off hot. He plays a variety of positions and plays them well,” Maddon said in an interview on MLB Network Radio.
“Any time you get a guy that can play the middle of the infield and the middle of the outfield, that’s exciting to me. Yeah, you know he’s got Zobrist’s qualities or tendencies. In a National League situation it helps you expand your roster, ability to move around during the course of the game, the fact he hits from both sides of the plate and he can play shortstop. That really is a super-utility man so I’m really eager to get working with him.”
While the Ben Zobrist comp is an easy fit for Arismendy Alcantara, it’s really not fair to the player. Zobrist has produced at the big league level, and Alcantara is barely beyond rookie status. Alcantara can play second base, center field and shortstop and he’s expected to see time at third base and left field when the Cactus League games begin next week.
Maddon discussed the value that Alcantara could provide to this year’s team Thursday.
“When you get a guy like that and you want to give someone a rest, you don’t feel like you’re losing anything. And the big attraction there is also in-game. It’s almost like having an extra guy on the bench. It really thickens the pool. It permits you to do more things late in the game.”
Maddon pointed out the importance of Alcantara being a switch-hitter and with the fact he can play shortstop makes him a super utility player. And that makes him a special player. Maddon went as far to say Thursday he thinks super-utility guys should have a spot on the All-Star squads because of how vital that type of player is to a team’s success.
Arismendy Alcantara is open to playing any position and does not see a problem with moving around the field. Alcantara just wants to be in the lineup.
Several roles and roster spots will be determined in Spring Training, but based on reports and Maddon’s statements Arismendy Alcantara could play a big part for the Cubs this season.