Name: Raul Alcantara
Height/Weight: 6’3’’, 205
How Acquired: Acquired on Dec. 28, 2011 from the Boston Red Sox along with Josh Reddick and Miles Head in exchange for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney
At the start of the 2014 regular season, Raul Alcantara was the Oakland A’s top starting pitching prospect. The then-21-year-old was coming off of a standout season in A-ball and a strong first big league spring training. Unfortunately, an elbow injury stopped Alcantara in his tracks in early April. Now healthy again, Alcantara is looking at a big season for his development in 2016.
Alcantara was the least well-known member of the package of players the A’s received from the Boston Red Sox for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney before the 2012 season. Josh Reddick had some big league experience before the trade and has since been one of the A’s most productive position players. The other prospect in that deal – Miles Head – washed out of the A’s system last year. Alcantara still has an opportunity to be the most valuable of the three, provided he can reach his potential.
The right-hander signed with the Red Sox as a teenager before the 2010 season. He came stateside in 2011 and had a 2.20 ERA in 65.1 short-season innings that year before being traded to the A’s. Oakland assigned Alcantara to Low-A Burlington in 2012 and he spent the entire year in the Midwest League.
Raul Alcantara Stats
Despite a plus fastball and promising secondary offerings, Alcantara struggled during his first year of full-season action. He allowed 119 hits in 102.2 innings – including 12 homeruns – and he posted a 57:38 K:BB. His ERA was 5.08.
The A’s returned Alcantara to the Midwest League in 2013, and he posted much different results. In 13 starts for Low-A Beloit (the A’s new Midwest League affiliate that season), Alcantara posted a 2.44 ERA. He still allowed more than a hit per inning (84), but he walked only seven and he allowed just three homeruns. Alcantara earned a mid-season promotion to High-A Stockton. With the Ports, his K-rate rose from 6.75 to 7.52 and his hit rate dropped more than a hit per nine innings. His walk and homer rates also rose, but were still strong for the California League. He finished the year with a 3.11 ERA and a 124:24 K:BB in 156.1 A-ball innings as a 20-year-old.
That off-season, the A’s added Alcantara to their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He landed as number three on our pre-2014 A’s prospect rankings and was our top-ranked pitcher. In the spring, Alcantara allowed just one run in four innings in two big league camp appearances and opened a lot of eyes during his bullpen sessions. He was assigned to Double-A Midland to start the season and was the youngest pitcher on the RockHounds’ Opening Day roster.
Unfortunately, Alcantara would make it only three starts into the season before injuring his elbow. He was off to an excellent start for the RockHounds before the injury, allowing just five runs in 19.2 innings. Alcantara had Tommy John surgery in May and missed the rest of the 2014 season and the first half of the 2015 campaign.
Alcantara completed his rehab in June and was assigned to the Stockton Ports on June 8. He remained on a strict pitch count the rest of the season but was still able to rack up 48.2 innings for the Ports. He posted a 3.88 ERA and a 29:8 K:BB.
Alcantara’s velocity returned quickly after the surgery and he sat mostly in the 92-94 MPH range with Stockton, occasionally hitting 97. His change-up was also effective and he was spotting his fastball fairly well. The A’s were cautious with Alcantara’s usage of his two out-pitches – his breaking ball and his cut-fastball. Not surprisingly, he didn’t miss a lot of bats. Still, the A’s were pleased with how Alcantara progressed in 2015.
“Just coming off of surgery and getting back into the swing of things, throw out the results, it was a good year for him to get back on the mound,” A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens said. “Going forward, he’s still very young and he’s got that really good velocity. He throws strikes and his change-up compliments his velocity well and that breaking ball should get better. This year was a good year to get healthy and show that he is able to throw again. Next year will be a year where I think you will see the results tick upward.”
A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman says that Alcantara is currently at a similar point in his rehab to where fellow top pitching prospect Dillon Overton was going into the 2015 season. Overton threw 126 innings for Stockton and Midland in 2015 and enters the 2016 as one of the A’s top-10 prospects.
Like Overton, Alcantara has excellent command of the strike-zone and a high baseball IQ. He works in the lower half of the strike-zone and has generally been a groundball pitcher during his career. Alcantara has been called one of the hardest working players in the A’s system. He does a good job watching hitters in-between starts and taking what he learns into his next outing. Alcantara has one of the best fastballs in the A’s system and his change-up is also among the best in Oakland's farm system. The key for Alcantara will be whether he can generate enough swings-and-misses from his breaking ball and cut-fastball to take his fate out of the hands of his fielders.
Alcantara has used two of his three option years, although the A’s could appeal for a fourth year given that he missed nearly all of the 2014 season and half of 2015 with the elbow injury. Either way, Alcantara will need to make big strides in 2016 to position himself for a chance to pitch in the big leagues in 2017. He should be able to use more of his entire pitching repertoire in 2016 and should be able to increase his innings total considerably.
Alcantara is likely to spend the 2016 season in Double-A. A strong year with the RockHounds could lead to a September call-up for Alcantara and should put him in the discussion for a big league spot in 2017.