Dreaming Big: What comes next for Cubs prospect Kevin Alcántara
The confidence and swagger that Cubs prospect Kevin Alcántara has affords him the ability to dream big.
“My goal this year is to be a big-leaguer,” the 20-year-old outfielder said. “I’m going to try to do my absolute best to get to the big leagues this year.”
Those are lofty goals, at least from the outside.
After all, 2022 was his first full professional season Stateside and it was at Class-A Myrtle Beach, four steps away from the major leagues. But that experience — plus the fact that he was added to the 40-man roster this winter — is what has him believing he can set a high bar.
Alcántara isn’t your run-of-the-mill Class-A prospect. He’s a consensus Top-100 prospect in baseball, the type of player scouts dream of — a big frame with that rare combination of power and speed. He clubbed 15 home runs (6th in the Carolina League), drove in a league-high 85 runs and added 14 steals, showing off his overall prowess on the offensive side of the ball.
The biggest takeaway from 2022, though, was learning patience and discipline at the plate. In his first taste of full-season pro ball, Alcántara dealt with the highs and lows of a baseball season and how to take them all in stride. But the valleys of the season are where he learned the most.
“There’s times that your swing is right, but you’re not seeing the ball or something,” Alcántara said. “Those are adjustments that you have to make as time goes on and be aware of them.”
The Carolina League is known as a difficult league for hitters, but the 6-foot-6-inch prospect showed he could thrive in it. He posted a 124 weighted runs created plus, 24 percentage points above league average, and an .811 OPS, both ranking in the Top 10 of qualified hitters in the league.
All that started with his pitch selection.
“Sometimes the pitchers want to confuse you mentally and I learned to look for my pitches in the zone and then be aggressive with those pitches,” Alcántara said. “I learned a lot because in the league I was in — it’s not like a Double-A or the majors where they throw pitches on the edges — no, they’re trying to deceive you. They throw you a lot of bad pitches and you must follow the pitches well. Those are the adjustments I worked on during the year.”
But success at Class-A alone doesn’t translate to becoming a major leaguer.
Alcántara knows there’s more physical maturity that needs to be done to continue to grow as a player.
“Weight,” Alcántara said, smoothly breaking out of his native Spanish. “I’m focusing on my weight. Adding [weight] and getting even quicker. I want to stay strong, agile and feel good in my body.”
He’s done that this offseason, adding 10 pounds to his lean body with the hope of continuing to add more. But there’s a balance for him. Part of his allure as a prospect has been the power-speed combination.
“Honestly, I have been working a lot on my weight and speed because people say that big guys are slow and I’m gonna show that that isn’t the case,” Alcántara said.
One of his favorite players is an inspiration for that.
Alcántara doesn’t try to mold his game off any player, rather he tries to emulate parts of different players’ games. One of those is reigning AL MVP Aaron Judge – another big outfielder that has shown his power, but also stole a career-high 16 bases in 2022.
With his lofty goals for the season, maybe Alcántara can follow the template of a young player in Atlanta — Vaughn Grissom. The 21-year-old middle infielder spent the majority of the 2021 season at Class-A Augusta, before ending the year at High-A Rome. He started 2022 at High-A, earning a promotion to Double-A, playing 22 games there before he was called up to the majors and hasn’t been back since. Now Grissom is a candidate to man shortstop for contending Atlanta with the departure of Dansby Swanson.
“Wherever they put me, I’m going to put in the work,” Alcántara said.
And he’s eager to show that to Cubs fans.
He caught a glimpse of what the fandom is like at Cubs Convention last month and he’s eager to repay that admiration, especially knowing he was acquired for a fan favorite in Anthony Rizzo.
“People might say, ‘they traded Anthony Rizzo for this guy,’” Alcántara said. “I want to show the fans that I can do it and I can be a superstar, too.
“I want to show the people here that trading away Rizzo wasn’t in vain.”
And the Cubs believe in him, too.
“A lot of tools in his tool bag,” Cubs vice president of player development Jared Banner said. “He works really hard at his craft — high energy. He’s a leader amongst his peers. We’re really excited about what he’s gonna do this year.”
Alcántara believes Cubs fans will see his swagger and charisma sooner rather than later. That’s his message to them.
“I will work as hard as I possibly can so they can see me as fast as possible in the big leagues and show what I can do,” Alcántara said.