In the winter before the 2012 season, the Oakland A's acquired Raul Alcantara in the trade that netted Josh Reddick for All-Star closer Andrew Bailey. Alcantara was a high-ceiling pitching prospect at the time, and he ranked toward the top of our Community Prospect List for a while. However, Tommy John surgery interrupted his progress and tanked his prospect value, and he's spent the last couple years working his way slowly through the minors. Entering 2016, the right-hander ranked only No. 14 on our CPL in an overall good-not-great farm system.
Despite his relative struggles, the A's keep moving him up for bigger tests. This month, despite a 4.80 ERA in 17 starts at Double-A, they moved the 23-year-old up to Triple-A Nashville to help out a Sounds rotation that keeps losing starters to the big league club. Alcantara has responded to the challenge better than anyone could have expected:
Alcantara, 7/22: 7 ip, 0 ER, 3 Ks, 0 BB, 4 hits, 93 pitches
Alcantara, 7/27: 7 ip, 0 ER, 5 Ks, 0 BB, 7 hits, 105 pitches
Holy smokes, that's some domination. Granted, First Tennessee Park is rounding out as a pitcher-friendly stadium so far, so we still have to see what Alcantara does at some of the scarier high-altitude venues, but you have to love the first impression he's made. There was one unearned run in the first outing, on an inning-opening error by Chad Pinder (his 25th of the year, yikes, someone give him Wash's number!), but otherwise he was untouchable. As you might guess, my favorite part is the zero walks, though Alcantara has never been particularly prone to free passes.
There's likely more to Alcantara's ascent up the minors than just his performance, though. He's already on the 40-man roster for Rule 5 purposes and has been for a while, so he's only got one more option year left after this one (and then would be an out-of-options player in 2018, meaning he'd have to stick in MLB). If the A's ever want to see what they've got in him (or pump up his value for a trade), they need to keep moving him up the ladder even if they might otherwise have given him a bit more time to marinate. Time is a factor here.
Many of us here at Athletics Nation have long seen Alcantara as a candidate to move to the bullpen in the future, but so far he is acquitting himself well in Nashville. The Sounds have 39 more games this year, so he could be looking at around seven more chances to keep showing he belongs in a rotation. And if he passes that test, we can start talking about a possible 2017 debut for a guy we've been waiting over four years to see.
Hitters (thru 105 games)
Not much to report here. Wendle is still looking strong since the beginning of June (.810 OPS). Olson has been hot in July (.903), while Renato has at least chipped in a couple homers as his wretched slump continues.
|... Bullpen ...|
Mengden and Hahn are back in town for now. Both have ERAs over 5.00 in the bigs but have flashed plenty of potential to keep them looking exciting for next year. Suddenly the Sounds' rotation is packed with interesting names, in addition to the filler depth guys like Chris Jensen, Chris Smith and Ross Detwiler. Of course, one of those bigger names will quickly be moving back to Oakland given that they have only four starters right now (unless Zach Neal takes a spot turn?), and it could be two of them if Rich Hill still isn't ready for his next start (or if he gets traded).
All five affiliates are in action.
Triple-A Nashville: 5:05 p.m., Chris Smith vs. Colorado Springs
Double-A Midland: 5:05 p.m., Daniel Gossett vs. Corpus Christi
High-A Stockton: 7:10 p.m., James Naile vs. Visalia
Single-A Beloit: LIVE, Dustin Hurlbutt vs. Burlington
Low-A Vermont: LIVE, A.J. Puk vs. Brooklyn
Puk's line: 2⅔ ip, 2 runs, 4 Ks, 2 BB, 4 hits, 0 HR, 61 pitches (36 strikes). That gives the big lefty a 4.32 ERA with 8 Ks and 3 BB so far in pro ball. Gossett, Naile, and Hurlbutt are all names to watch.