|17||RHS||09 07 95||2013||IFA|
Selected 2016 stats
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Message board community (8): Sandy Alcantara landed at #8 on the community vote. After being compared to former farmhands Maikel Cleto and Francisco Samuel last year, Alcantara turned quite a few more few heads during this prospect vote.
14NyquisT said that Alcantara pitched better with his promotion to Palm Beach than he did at Peoria. VegasjJim said that while Alcantara might have more upside than 2016 first rounder Dakota Hudson, he sees Hudson as more of a sure bet to make it to the bigs as a starter. Scadder21 thinks Alcantara could be the next Alex Reyes. BobReed chimed in, saying that Alcantara has a very good argument to be in the top 100 prospects in all of baseball. He has health on his side, double-plus velocity, strikeouts, size, and excellent FIP numbers.
Wileycard is less sure, as he does not think Sandy has passed fellow fire-baller Junior Fernandez yet as major leaguers can hit straight gas although Scadder21 noted that Alcantara does have good off-speed pitches too. – Jeremy Byrd
Derek Shore (7): As many are aware, the Low-A Peoria rotation was arguably the most talented in all of Minor League Baseball this past season. Perhaps no other pitcher benefited more from experiencing the rigid Midwest League weather than Alcantara, who is accustomed to consistent 80-degree temperatures in his native Dominican Republic.
"Had that big fastball," Peoria manager Joe Kruzel told the Peoria Journal Star of Alcantara, who was able to dial it up to 100 mph multiple times in his outings. "When the warm weather hit, he developed all three pitches and was terrific."
Alcantara, 21, led all MWL hurlers with 119 strikeouts at the time of his late-July promotion to High-A Palm Beach in just his second season stateside. The flame throwing right-hander held a 4.08 ERA through 17 starts (90 1/3 innings) following the jump all the way from the Gulf Coast League Cardinals in 2015.
"It's amazing what that kid can do," Peoria pitching coach Dernier Orozco said. "At the beginning, it was a struggle with control and command, but as the season went he was able to make adjustments with his delivery and be more confident on the mound. He was able to make adjustments and just dominate the league at one time.
"He got a lot of strikeouts on the breaking pitch. He's got plus pitches, and he's going to be able to do a lot of stuff."
Despite a 0-4 record and shaky Florida State League debut, Alcantara collected four quality starts in his six starts with the Beach Birds, compiling a 3.62 ERA with 34 strikeouts against 14 walks in 32 1/3 innings pitched. The fact that he is three years younger than most of the league and holding his own was encouraging.
From a scouting perspective, scouts saw a much more polished version of Alcantara in 2016 than last year. At 6-foot-4, 170 pounds, the San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic native has a long, lean frame with broad shoulders, and he is still growing into his body with plenty of projection to add strength in the coming years.
Mechanically, Alcantara employs both a low three-quarters and three-quarters arm slot from a semi-windup. He has plus arm speed with clean, but long arm action with a stab in his arm swing and a slight head whack. His mechanics were inconsistent at the beginning of the season but he fine-tuned them to the point that he was cleaner with medium effort.
Alcantara's calling card is his double-plus heater, receiving some 80 grades even from scouts. His fastball ranges from 95-98 mph, touching 100 with some 101-102s in the past. With easy velocity, he is able to hold it throughout an outing with straight and heavy, late life that has more movement in the mid-90s when located down in the zone. The pitch can be spotted from both sides of the plate and be elevated for strikeouts as well.
While he has premium gas, his secondary pitches are raw and need present refinement. His breaking ball grades out as a 30-40 pitch with average potential. He's still tinkering with a grip, but his 11-5 curve is said to flash average spin and has depth with swing-miss ability. The change is a current 30 offering with the projection of a fringe to average grade. It's a straight changeup with some fade but he lacks the feel to throw it with conviction. That said, he flashes better feel for his secondaries than some of his peers.
Orozco talked about the progress with Alcantara's secondaries.
"I think the curveball and the changeup at one time during the season - both of them were plus," he said. "He's got a sharp breaking pitch he can use in any count, and the changeup was better as the season went. He was improving the location and trusting it a little bit more.
"I think he's got good stuff. Good out pitches, in my opinion."
Not only will the quality of his secondary pitches hinge on reaching his high ceiling, but Alcantara's improvement with his command, which is lagging behind as well. At his best, he keeps the ball down, locates his fastball to both sides of the plate, and elevates for strikeouts.
Orozco outlines what he did to fine-tune his command as the season went on.
"He made some adjustments with his delivery," Orozco said. "He's a young kid, who hasn't pitched a lot, but as he pitched more and more and got more confident - he got more confident with his delivery and is more repeatable now. He made some adjustments with his lower body, and that's been something he's been working on since last year.
"This past year, it was easier to repeat."
Ultimately, the determining factors for Alcantara will be the curve and his command. If he continues to progress, he could develop into a #2 type starter at the highest level. If not, he would be an effectively wild back-end starter or high-leverage reliever with fringy secondary stuff.
Alcantara should return to High-A Palm Beach to open 2017 with a midseason assignment to Double-A Springfield at some point with a chance of his career accelerating.
"I think the (biggest) thing for him will be just to get to Double-A," Orozco said. "I think for him to get out there will be a challenge to see how he's going to be at that level. If he proves himself, he'll be able to move on."
Brian Walton (8): This is about as close to a consensus as our three voters have made to this point in our top 50 countdown, as Alcantara rose from 17th last year to eighth this year.
Alcantara’s 2016 began with a big surprise. Of the four starters promoted directly from the Gulf Coast League to Peoria, he was and remains the best prospect. It did not begin well, however. Through his first two months, over 10 starts in the Midwest League, Alcantara was lugging a 5.21 ERA.
This fall, I asked his pitching coach Dernier Orozco if there were initial concerns about Alcantara’s readiness.
“I won’t say that he was a little overmatched - but it seemed like he was, ‘Wow, I see what a big jump for me this is,’ Orozco said. “But he started to make progress and make better quality pitches. He started to work a little more on fastball command and it helped him to get more strikeouts and more easy outs.”
From June 5 on, over his final seven starts with Peoria and six with Palm Beach, Alcantara logged a 3.51 ERA. His strikeouts continued on a very consistent level of over 11 per nine innings all year long, but his walk rate improved from over five per nine innings in the early going to 3.8 the rest of the way. Obviously, there is still room for improvement, but there was marked progress in reducing those free passes.
The Cards made an aggressive move with Alcantara to open 2016, so why wouldn’t they do it again this coming spring to keep him moving quickly toward St. Louis?
I can logically link together many of the decisions as to where the organization will assign top prospects in the spring, even though they are not directly related. For example, will the player development staff consider Austin Gomber ready for Memphis based on four starts at Springfield plus the seven at the Arizona Fall League?
If so, a spot could be opened up for Alcantara in the Texas League despite his limited time at Palm Beach. His 2.54 FIP and a .216 batting average against along with an improved 1.5-to-1.0 ground ball to fly ball ratio in the Florida State League indicates potential readiness for more.
So, a reasonable case could be made for the Cardinals to push Alcantara ahead to Double-A in the spring. Despite a glut of strong candidates at both Springfield and Palm Beach, I think if the organization believes he is ready, his top prospect status will open the door for him. If not, and he has to return to the FSL for a while and continues on track, he should not be there too long.
The scouting grade that follows indicates a possible all-star ceiling, while acknowledging there is still work ahead.
TCN Scouting Grade: 7, Risk: Medium (click here to review scales)
Our 2017 top 50 series continues
To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. Thank you for being a member!
© 2016 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com and scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.