Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.
Victor Alcantara, RHP, Los Angeles Angels (Profile)
Level: Low-A Age: 21 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 87.0 IP, 48-79 BB-K, 64 H, 4.03 ERA
With the recent trade for the Padres’ Huston Street, the Angels all but emptied their minor league system.
The deal can be categorized as “quantity over quality” due to the lack of ceiling for many players in the system but the club still surrendered four prospects that likely would have landed on the post-season Top 15 prospects list (shortstop Jose Rondon, second baseman Taylor Lindsey as well as pitchers Elliot Morris and R.J. Alvarez).
In the wake of the trade, the Angels’ best prospects are low-level lottery tickets, recent draftees and a couple players with modest ceilings. Victor Alcantara — the organization’s most intriguing arm behind 17-year-old Ricardo Sanchez — falls into the first category.
The Dominican-born right-hander recently appeared in the MiLB Futures Game and is now in his third pro season — his first in full-season ball. At this point in his career he’s more of a “thrower than a “pitcher” but he tantalizes prospect evaluators with a mid-90s fastball that can tickle the upper levels. He’s pitched 87.0 innings in 2014 while allowing just 64 hits and whiffing 79, but his walk total of 48 shows how volatile his control is. Alcantara routinely struggles to command his fastball.
He’s interesting because he occasionally flashes a better-than-average breaking ball that causes hitters to look foolish. Other times, though, he drops his elbow and the pitch takes off on him and flatten out. The break is inconsistent at the best of times, going from loopy to tight with the drop of a hat.
Rarely does Alcantara throw a changeup. For that reason, combined with his stiff delivery, the young pitcher looks headed for a future role in the bullpen. He even throws exclusively from the stretch when he starts. Don’t get me wrong, Alcantara has a time to iron out the wrinkles in his game and settle into a permanent starter’s role but I truly think the cards are stacked against him.
And with his powerful heater (generated in part by his strong lower half), impressive ground-ball rates and durable frame he could develop into a key back-of-the-bullpen arm — especially if he can improve his command and control a full grade over the next few years. If not, he could still be a strong seventh inning reliever, or back-of-the-rotation innings-eater.
Ryan Rua, IF/OF, Texas Rangers (Profile)
Level: Double-A/Triple-A Age: 24 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 377 PA, .299/.369/.488, 15 HR, 5 SB, 37-73 BB-K
Hitting 32 home runs in 2013 was both a blessing and a curse for Ryan Rua. On one hand, the versatile fielder landed on prospect evaluators’ “must watch” list. On the other, though, the unexpected offensive barrage set unrealistic expectations for future production (just ask Mitch Einertson).
The 24-year-old Rangers prospect produced those power numbers split between (mostly) Low-A ball and Double-A ball — after he skipped High-A ball entirely. While producing those numbers both his batting average (.247) and, more importantly, his on-base percentage (.347) struggled and gave him the appearance of a one-dimensional player.
Fast-forward a year, though, and Rua is showing signs of becoming a more complete player while splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A. He’s still hit 15 home runs in 92 games but he’s hitting just below .300 and his on-base percentage is up to .369 — numbers more in line with his first two pro seasons.
The big issue for Rua is where he’s going to play on a baseball field. The majority of his experience has come at the hot corner but his results have been just so-so… a sentiment that can be shared during his time at second base. He’s dabbled at first base, as well as in the corner outfield slots. He’s likely headed for a future as an offensive-minded utility player capable of playing four to five times a week if needed.
Now in his fourth pro season, the former 17th round pick is due to be added to the 40-man roster by November (at the latest) or he’ll be exposed to the Rule 5 draft. The Rangers will most likely protect him so don’t be surprised to see him added to the roster in September for a brief taste of The Show.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.