When we released our original top-51 prospects ranking in November, I didn’t expect to be writing a report on Alcantara, even though he landed at number 12 on our list. Sources had told me during the regular season that the right-hander was the player-to-be-named-later in the deal with the Chicago Cubs, so I assumed he would be gone by this point in the off-season. As it turned out, my information was faulty and Alcantara is still a member of the green-and-gold.
Having Alcantara still in the system is a nice surprise considering that he was the top-ranked A’s pitching prospect going into 2014. Unfortunately, an elbow injury cost Alcantara virtually all of the 2014 season and will likely keep him off of the regular season mound for the first few months of 2015. However, if he can get back to where he was in the spring of 2014, Alcantara could be a factor for the A’s as soon as late-2016.
Alcantara came to the A’s before the 2012 season as part of the package that Oakland received from the Boston Red Sox for Andrew Bailey. As a 19-year-old in 2012, Alcantara spent the entire season with Low-A Burlington. He showed flashes of dominant stuff, but struggled to find a put-away pitch and finished the year with a 5.08 ERA and a 57:38 K:BB in 102.2 innings. Despite the mediocre numbers, the A’s saw plenty for Alcantara to build off of going into 2013.
In 2013, Alcantara returned to the Midwest League, this time suiting up for the A’s new (at the time) MWL affiliate, the Beloit Snappers. Armed with an improved breaking ball and a better approach to his pitch sequencing, Alcantara produced much different results his second time through the Midwest League. In 13 starts, he posted a 2.44 ERA. He struck-out only 58 in 77.1 innings, but he walked only seven and allowed just three homeruns.
After the Midwest League All-Star break, Alcantara moved up to High-A Stockton, where he would spend the rest of the season. With his move to the California League, Alcantara was challenged to try to go for a few more strike-outs rather than pitching to contact quite as frequently. He saw an uptick in his strike-out totals with the Ports, whiffing 66 in 79 innings. His walk total also creeped up a little (17), as did his ERA (3.76), although both were solid numbers compared to the league-average.
Although Alcantara didn’t turn 21 until December 2014, he had to be added to the A’s 40-man roster last off-season to protect him from the Rule 5 draft because he was signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Red Sox in 2009. That earned Alcantara an invitation to big league spring training, but it also started his option clock. The A’s didn’t give Alcantara many opportunities in big league games last spring, but in two outings, he allowed just an unearned run in four innings of work.
The A’s sent Alcantara to Double-A Midland to start the year. He was outstanding in his first two starts, first firing an eight-inning, one-run outing and following that up with a 6.2-inning outing during which he allowed just a run and he struck-out seven. However, he left his third start after five innings experiencing elbow soreness. Eventually he would be diagnosed with a torn UCL and was lost for the year after Tommy John surgery.
Tommy John rehabs generally run 12-18 months, and the A’s have usually been on the conservative side of that timetable with their younger pitchers. Alcantara had his surgery in May, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him throwing in extended spring training games in May. More than likely, he will start pitching in games that count around June, although set-backs could push that date further. Alcantara just turned 22 in December, so there isn’t a need to rush him back. He will be in his second option year, but chances are that he will be awarded a fourth option year due to the time missed from injury.
When healthy, Alcantara has a lively fastball that can reach 95 and gets plenty of movement down in the strike-zone. He also has a solid change-up that he can throw when he is ahead and behind in the count, and his breaking ball was making good strides before the injury. Alcantara has excellent command, although he can live a little too much in the strike-zone, which has made him more of a pitch-to-contact pitcher than one would expect of a pitcher with his quality of stuff. With time, Alcantara should be able to learn how to use his command to miss bats effectively, rather than just to throw strikes.
Tommy John rehabs have become more routine over the years, but it is still never a sure thing how a pitcher will recover until he gets back on the mound. However, if Alcantara can discover his pre-injury form, he could be a fixture in the A’s rotation in the near future.