How Does Arismendy Alcantara Factor into Cubs Plan?

Patrick Mooney writes that Arismendy Alcantara is playing his way into the Cubs’ future plans.

However, those plans still have many moving parts to be still be sorted out. Alcantara, a holdover from the Jim Hendry regime, has both the versatility and speed to be a factor. His switch-hitting ability could play well in a lineup that projects to be predominately right-handed.

Even if Alcantara were to get squeezed out of an everyday position in the future by potential outfielders such as Kris Bryant, Alberta Almora, or Kyle Schwarber, he still may hold tremendous value as a versatile player, the way Chone Figgins did in the heyday of his career.

Jason Parks, formerly of Baseball Prospectus, often likened Alcantara to Jose Reyes Light. He also always projected Mendy to hit somewhere down towards the 6 to 7 position of a line-up. So what do the numbers tell us about Alcantara the hitter?

Let’s start by pointing out that this is a pretty substantial sample of data we’re talking about here:

Mendy has 64 major league games and nearly 300 plate appearances to his name already, so we should really see some stabilization in some of his skills here. And if you look at his game log for this season, you’ll see a hot start, followed by an adjustment period, followed by his climbing back into some good hitting stats.

Taken as a whole, I think we can make some conclusions about these 300 trips to the plate. What are those conclusions?

Today, Alcantara is a .215 hitter with a .267 OBP and a .379 slugging. You might think that’s not good enough to play in MLB, but actually AA has been worth 0.5 fWAR in his little mini-season and he’s only just about to turn 23.

In some ways, Alcantara is doing pretty much exactly what you would expect, given his minor league numbers. He has walked in 6% of his plate appearances, and struck out about 30% of the time. His SO/BB ratio (4.7) is a little higher than it was in Triple-A (3.3), but that’s to be expected when facing better pitching.

He’s also flashing quite a bit of pop. His ISO (that’s AVG – SLG, a good measure of power – google it!) is .164 so far, better than any ISO that Starlin Castro has ever posted (Castro is maxing out in the mid to high .140’s these days). Again, that’s pretty much in line with what we saw in the minors.

What’s not in line with his minor league stats is his BABIP, or batting average on balls in play. In the minors, about 1 out of every 3 balls Alcantara put into play fell for a hit, a sign of his superior ability as a hitter. In the majors, it’s about 1 in 4–some bad luck, some adjusting to better pitching. Alcantara’s BABIP may not return to .333 territory, but it should increase from its current level (.268).

If that happens, what kind of hitter would Alcantara be? Various projection systems have him as a .245/.300/.400 hitter going forward, and that’s about what I think he’ll be, at least for the next little while. Fortunately, as a young player AA has plenty of opportunity to learn, improve, perfect his game going forward.

But in 2015, as a .245/.300/.400 hitter, I think that’s exactly what you want from your 7-spot in the lineup–some hit, some power, some speed. If Alcantara continues to improve his pitch selection (and there’s evidence he might do this, given his 11% walk rate at Tennessee), he could see himself in one of the top two spots of the lineup. But I’d say for the next year or three the Cubs have themselves an excellent 7 hitter here.

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