From the Minor League Ball mailbag:
“I watched Sandy Alcantara mow down the Phillies yesterday. What’s your current take on him? I thought he would end up in the bullpen.”——Phillies fan from Florida
This email came in on September 6th, a few hours after Alcantara threw seven shutout innings for the Miami Marlins against the Philadelphia Phillies, giving up three hits and two walks with six strikeouts. Let’s review the young right-hander.
The St. Louis Cardinals originally signed Alcantara out of the Dominican Republic in 2013. He got through the system in four years, reaching the majors for the first time in ‘17, fanning 10 in 8.1 relief innings while walking six. He came over to Miami in the Marcell Ozuna deal last December.
Alcantara ranked sixth on the Marlins pre-season Top 20 prospects for 2018 list with this comment:
6) Sandy Alcantara, RHP, Grade B/B-: Age 22, signed by St. Louis Cardinals out of Dominican Republic in 2013, traded to Marlins in Marcell Ozuna deal; posted 4.31 ERA with 106/54 K/BB in 125 innings in Double-A, 125 hits; threw eight innings of relief in MLB, with 4.32 ERA, 10/6 K/BB; hard-thrower at 95-100 MPH; both slider and change-up flash as a quality pitches but are inconsistent, as is his command; unclear if he starts or relieves in the long run; to be honest the numbers do not support a grade this high but my intuition says to give the arm strength another year; your mileage may vary: ETA late 2018.
The Marlins sent Alcantara to Triple-A New Orleans for 2018 and he performed reasonably, posting a 3.89 ERA in 19 starts, 116 innings, with an 88/38 K/BB and 107 hits allowed. He finished sixth in the Pacific Coast League ERA race and doesn’t have much to prove at the Triple-A level at his point. He made one start in the majors in late June before missing a couple of weeks with a minor infection but has shown no ill effects of late.
The basics of the scouting report haven’t changed: he has a consistent mid-90s fastball that can hit 98 frequently and has touched 100 in the past. His secondary pitches (slider, change-up, curve) took a step forward according to PCL sources and in general he was simply more consistent this year. That said, Alcantara still relies heavily on the fastball, using both two-seam and four-seam varieties, and it will always be his main pitch.
The key question pre-season: would he be a starter or reliever long-term?
My personal take is that relief risk looks less than it did six months ago and even back then I liked Alcantara’s chances on an intuitive level. Currently he would rate as a strong Grade B prospect.