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Oakland A's 2017 top-50 prospect scouting report: Raul Alcantara, RHP

Our Oakland A's 2017 top-50 prospects list is out. Now find out more about the players on that list. In this piece, a close look at top-50 prospect Raul Alcantara. Alcantara finally reached the big leagues in 2016. Now out of options, can he make himself a permanent big leaguer this season?

Name: Raul Alcantara
Position: RHP
Height/Weight: 6’4’’, 220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Age: 24
How Acquired: Acquired on Dec. 28, 2011 from the Boston Red Sox.

Tommy John surgery slowed his progress, but Raul Alcantara finally reached the big leagues at the tail-end of the 2016 season, seven years into his minor league career. Full of talent but out of minor league options, where will Alcantara fit in the Oakland A’s plans for 2017? Time has been on Alcantara’s side throughout his professional baseball career, but the right-hander is finally up against a deadline – of sorts – to establish himself as a major-league fixture. The longtime highly rated prospect enters his age-24 season with major-league experience under his belt but no minor league options left to work with. The biggest question for Alcantara going into 2017 is if he is ready to be a full-time big leaguer.

At the start of 2014, it didn’t look like the options clock was going to impact Alcantara’s development significantly. Signed as a teenager by the Boston Red Sox before the 2010 season, Alcantara was added to A’s 40-man roster before the 2014 season to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. The A’s top pitching prospect going into that season, Alcantara began his first option year on the roster of the Double-A Midland RockHounds, putting him in a strong position to reach the big leagues well before his three option years were up. Alcantara got off to a strong start that season, posting a 2.29 ERA over his first three starts.

Unfortunately, those three starts would be all Alcantara would make for Midland that season. Elbow pain sidelined him on April 26 and he had Tommy John surgery not that long after. He would remain sidelined until June 8, 2015, when he joined the High-A Stockton Ports. Alcantara threw 48.2 innings for the Ports that season, posting a 3.88 ERA.

Raul Alcantara Stats

2010 DSL Red Sox 60.1 3.28 61 8 34 1 1.80 .260
2011 GCL Red Sox 48 0.75 23 6 36 0 1.54 .147
2011 Lowell 17.1 6.23 25 6 14 0 0.90 .333
2012 Burlington 102.2 5.08 119 38 57 12 1.27 .304
2013 Beloit 77.1 2.44 84 7 58 3 1.17 .272
2013 Stockton 79 3.76 73 17 66 8 0.94 .243
2014 Midland 19.2 2.29 17 5 10 0 1.10 .250
2015 Stockton 48.2 3.88 54 8 29 3 1.14 .286
2016 Midland 90 4.80 100 27 73 11 1.40 .284
2016 Nashville 45.2 1.18 38 3 32 1 0.68 .229
2016 Oakland 22.1 7.25 31 4 14 4 0.79 .333
Career (MiLB) 588.2 3.52 594 125 409 39 1.20 .265

Alcantara’s third option year came last season, and it was a make-or-break campaign for the then-23-year-old. He needed somehow to establish himself as a legitimate major-league candidate for 2017 in his first full season back from the surgery. It was believed before the season that Alcantara would be limited to 120 innings or so, but he wound up throwing a career-high number of innings and he put himself in a position to compete for a spot at the big league level in 2017.

Alcantara began the 2016 season with Double-A Midland, and he would spend the majority of the season with the RockHounds. He struggled with his command in April (13 walks and five homers allowed in 21.2 innings), but got mostly back-on-track after that. Alcantara’s numbers with the RockHounds weren’t spectacular – 4.80 ERA and a 73:27 K:BB in 90 innings – but the A’s saw enough to give him an opportunity in Triple-A on July 20. It was at that point that Alcantara’s season started really trending in a positive direction.

Alcantara began his Nashville stint with seven strong innings during which he allowed just one unearned run. That began a stretch of eight starts during which he allowed two runs or fewer. He posted a 1.18 ERA in 45.2 innings and a 32:3 K:BB. Alcantara allowed just one homerun and PCL batters hit only .229 against him.

The A’s recalled Alcantara when rosters expanded in September and he would make five starts for Oakland during the final month of the year – all coming against AL West rivals. Alcantara’s first and last start were not pretty, but his middle three outings were solid. He allowed eight earned runs in 17.1 innings (4.15 ERA) with 13 strike-outs and just two walks. All told, Alcantara posted a 7.25 ERA and a 14:4 K:BB in 22.1 innings with the A’s.

Alcantara’s September stint didn’t do enough to establish him as a major leaguer, but he showed some signs of being ready to pitch at that level. Most importantly, Alcantara proved over the course of the season that he was fully recovered from the Tommy John surgery. Between minor leagues and the major leagues, he threw a career-high 158 innings. His fastball was clocked as high as 97 and he improved his breaking ball, tweaking his slider to have more of a cut-fastball break to it. His change-up – always his best secondary offering – got sharper as the season progressed. Alcantara still remained more hittable than one would expect for a pitcher with his raw stuff, but his command was generally solid and should be better another year removed from the surgery.

I think Raul Alcantara, the further he got away from surgery, the more comfortable he got on the mound with his true command, As Assistant General Manager Billy Owens said. When he was in Midland at the start of this year, he probably wasnt quite far enough from the surgery. But, first and foremost, Raul is a student of the game. Hes always pounded the strike-zone. I think adding that one more weapon – that slider/cutter – has made a big difference. The change-up has always been a good pitch and he can dial that fastball up to 96 and hes always thrown strikes. Whether they have been good big league strikes or strikes over the middle of the plate, hes always found that strike-zone. 

At 6’4’’, 220, Alcantara has grown from the lean teenager the A’s acquired before the 2012 season into a solid physical specimen. He showed surprising durability in his first full year back from the Tommy John surgery and, provided there are no ill-effects from his 2016 workload, he should be in a position to go 170-200 innings in 2017, should the A’s need that from him. Alcantara is one of the hardest workers in the A’s system, and has shown the ability to make adjustments. He still needs to improve his command within the strike-zone, as he allows too much contact for a pitcher with his caliber of stuff, but he is able to hit the strike-zone with all of his pitches.

What happens to Alcantara in 2017 remains to be seen. He will enter spring training with a chance to make the A’s starting rotation as a fifth starter, but there are several starters in A’s camp with more established big league success than Alcantara that he will have to beat out for a spot. The A’s could carry Alcantara as a long reliever and see if they can mold him into a Jesse Chavez-type pitcher in the middle innings. With his mid-90s fastball and slider/change-up combination, Alcantara could get a lot more swing-and-miss in shorter stints. A longman role could also allow him to continue to develop as a pitcher while still on the big league stage. He will need a big spring training to make the A’s roster, however. Given his talent, Alcantara isn’t likely to clear waivers, so if he doesn’t make the A’s out of spring training, he is likely to be traded.

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