Cubs' Alcantara getting closer to promotion

BOSTON -- Chicago Cubs infield/outfield prospect Arismendy Alcantara has taken another step in his development at Triple-A Iowa in recent weeks, putting him squarely on the major league club's radar.

"He's certainly making himself noticed," vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod said Monday before the Cubs played the Red Sox. "He's making the front office and the major league coaching staff take notice of what he's doing. Guys are talking about him."

Alcantara, 22, has raised his batting average to .305 after Monday's 1-for-5 night in Iowa's 7-6 win over first-place Omaha. And while Kris Bryant (grand slam) and Manny Ramirez (homer in his first home game at Iowa) grabbed the headlines, it's Alcantara who is the reigning Pacific Coast League Player of the Week. He may win Player of the Month honors after finishing June on a nine-game hitting streak and hitting safely in 13-of-14 and 17-of-19. That's a hitter getting ready for a promotion.

"He's taking another step in his development because of the kind of at-bats he's having," McLeod said. "His entire game has picked up."

McLeod turned down the chance to interview for the general manager's job in San Diego partly because of players like Alcantara. He wants a chance to see what the Cubs' heralded group of young players can accomplish. But while other teams in and out of the pennant race are bringing up top prospects, the Cubs have been slow to do so. The Red Sox just called up 21-year-old Mookie Betts, a fifth-round pick in 2011. Betts went from Double-A to Triple-A to the majors all this season.

"I think anytime you take a player from the minor leagues the player has indicated his time has arrived based on what he's done in the minor league level," Red Sox manager John Farrell said Monday. "In Mookie's case his ascent through the system has been rapid. He's met or exceeded every challenge along the way. At the same time with Vic's [Shane Victorino] reoccurrence with the injury, the two situations came together."

So the player was ready and the team had an opening. As trade season heats up for the Cubs, the same scenario could play out for Alcantara. Emilio Bonifacio, Darwin Barney or Luis Valbuena could draw interest from other teams, although Bonifacio is recovering from an oblique injury. Either way, Alcantara should be at Wrigley Field when rosters expand in September.

The Cubs have been exposing Alcantara, who has 10 home runs and 10 triples, more to the outfield after playing second and shortstop so far in his minor league career.

"He's hitting for power and driving the ball from both sides of the plate," McLeod said. "It's just been a lot of fun to see. He's getting closer."

The one caveat is that strikeout to walk ratio (3.6) as Cubs president Theo Epstein, who already put the brakes on a Bryant call-up this season, recently discussed.

"A lot of time you can get clued into that by looking at their walk rate and their strikeout rate," Epstein said. "If a guy isn't doing a nice job controlling the strike zone ... if they haven't mastered that in Triple-A it might not be the right time for him to come up here. It all depends on the individual but just because a player is having some statistical success at Triple-A doesn't mean we're in a rush to promote him, especially if they are young for their level."

That was about 10 days ago and he very easily could have been talking about Alcantara. But Epstein left the door open a crack by saying it "depends on the individual."

Alcantara is about to kick that door wide open. It will soon be his turn.