2016 Reds / 2017 Reds

Brandon Phillips vs. Arismendy Alcantara

brandon phillips bpWe mentioned the other day that the Reds had claimed a young former prospect, Arismendy Alcantara, from the A’s. In the comments to that post, All-Star commenter OhioJimW noted that Alcantara’s MLB stats through his age-24 season looked remarkably similar to Brandon Phillips’ numbers at the same age.

So I decided to dig a little deeper. Now keep in mind that this is just a thought experiment. I’m not suggesting, in any way, that Alcantara is going to duplicate the remarkable career that Brandon Phillips has enjoyed. Dare to dream, right?

But stick with me here. There are some interesting parallels, beyond the fact that Phillips had a secretary named Alcantara, and Alcantara had a secretary named Phillips. Both were young when they signed their first professional contract. Phillips was drafted out of high school in the second round by the Montreal Expos. Alcantara was signed by the Cubs as an amateur free agent from the Dominican Republic.

Phillips made his professional debut as an 18 year-old, playing for Montreal’s Gulf Coast League rookie ball team. He hit .290/.358/.408. As a 17 year-old playing in the Venezuelan Summer League, Alcantara hit .275/.349/.415, then followed that up with a .283/.315/.402 line at age 18.

At age 19:

  • Brandon Phillips:
  • (Low-A, 126 games) .242/.306/.378

  • Arismendy Alcantara:
  • (Low-A, 99 games) .271/.303/.352

At age 20:

  • Brandon Phillips:
  • (High-A, 55 games) .284/.414/.428; (AA, 67 games) .298/.337/.449

  • Arismendy Alcantara:
  • (High-A, 85 games) .302/.339/.447

Okay, up to this point, the results have been pretty similar. I haven’t dug into walk rates or strikeout rates, but those are all in the same ballpark too. Phillips was a higher-rated prospect at this point; he was, in fact, the #1 prospect in the Expos organization after his age-20 season. Alcantara was never rated quite that highly, but he was definitely a solid prospect. As recently as 2014, Baseball America had Alcantara rated as the 33rd best prospect in all of baseball, saying that it’s “[h]ard not to like an athletic middle infielder who can play short in a pinch and has power and speed.”

Phillips would make his major league debut with the Cleveland Indians the following season, at 21 years of age.

At age 21:

  • Brandon Phillips:
  • (AA, 60 games) .327/.380/.506; (AAA, 10 games) .257/.297/.457; (MLB, 11 games) .208/.242/.311

  • Arismendy Alcantara:
  • (AA, 133 games) .271/.352/.451

So Phillips struggled in his first big league cup of coffee, but both were productive in Double-A at this age.

The following year, at age 22, Phillips shuttled back and forth between Triple-A Buffalo and Cleveland. He was pretty bad at both levels: .175/.247/.279 in 43 games at AAA and .208/.242/.311 in the big leagues.

Alcantara, on the other hand, hit the ball well in 89 games at AAA Iowa (.307/.353/.537) before finally debuting in the majors with the Chicago Cubs. He played 70 games with the Cubs that season — 2014 — and posted a line of .205/.254/.367.

Both players were up and down between the majors and Triple-A through their age-24 seasons. Both struggled in the big leagues through that point in their careers. Their statistics look remarkably similar:

MLB stats through age-24:

  • Brandon Phillips:
  • 135 games, .206/.246/.310, 48 OPS+, 6 HR, 38 RBI

  • Arismendy Alcantara:
  • 97 games, .195/.249/.337, 62 OPS+, 10 HR, 32 RBI

alcantaraThere were whispers about each of these guys being “busts” by this time. Just before Phillips’ age-25 season, the Indians traded BP to the Cincinnati Reds for the immortal Jeff Stevens. Phillips would hit .276/.324/.427 (88 OPS+) that year. He grabbed the Cincinnati second base job and never let go on the way to an excellent career that is going to land him in the Reds Hall of Fame.

Just before Alcantara’s age-25 season, he was waived by the Oakland Athletics and the Reds snatched him up. Like Phillips at that same age, Alcantara is still overflowing with untapped potential.

Alcantara plays second base and center field. The Reds already have a comic book superhero playing center field, but there is very likely to be an opening at second base in the very near future. We’ve all been talking about Dilson Herrera as the heir apparent at second. Maybe Alcantara can win that position? If not, Herrera and Billy Hamilton each have a history of being injury-prone. There should be plenty of opportunities for Alcantara to get in the lineup.

Can the Reds catch lightning in a bottle for the second time? I’m certainly not predicting that. But my fingers are crossed.

19 thoughts on “Brandon Phillips vs. Arismendy Alcantara

  1. Geez, so many middle IF’s we have. Cozart, BP, Peraza, DeJesus, Renda, you could even put Irihabban in the mix for pinch-hitting purposes if you don’t like his age. Then, didn’t we pick up some Cuban recently, directly from Cuba? Then, this guy? Boy, decisions need to be made.

    • Given the injury prone natures of Cozart and Phillips or the possible trades of both, I’d argue we’re a tad thin at those positions because there’s no way I’d ever want to give substantial at-bats to Renda or Dejesus…..or even use them as backups. In fact I’d like to see them outrighted. Peraza and Hererra would then be the only guys with the ability to play 5 days a week and not kill you. All the more reason to try Duvall at 3B in spring training—so we could use Eugenio in the middle IF once a week.

      • I don’t think we are thin. In fact I think we have built solid depth at the middle infield positions. Beyond the three highly regarded (or formerly highly regarded) prospects in Peraza, Herrera, and Alcantara we have a couple other guys making their way through the system that should all be in AA or above next year.

        Blandino (2B), overall had a year to forget. But the last two months showed a return to the promise he had previously shown, that landed him just outside some pre-season top 100 lists. From July until the end of the season Blandino posted a 117 wRC+ with a .268/.368/.357 slash line. He cut his K% down to a reasonable 21.6% and his BB% increased to a very nice 12.8% during that time. His K% from April through June was 27.5%, and demonstrates the improvements he made. He was overcoming an spring wrist injury so I believe he’s closer to what he showed at the end of the year.

        Shed Long (2B) is also coming off a season where he destroyed A and A+ ball (146 and 153 wRC+ respectively)

        Zack Vincej (SS, 106 wRC+) is coming off his best offensive year since RK level ball and won the Gold Glove against all minor league SS.

        Calten Daal (SS) put up a 120 wRC+ in AA, small sample size of 127 PA as he was injured throughout the year. He’s certainly someone to keep an eye on at SS.

        Blake Trahan (SS) also had an above average offensive year in A+ (pitcher’s league) and that’s not counting the fact that the Reds signed an elite glove guy in Alfredo Rodriguez from Cuba this year.

      • I’ve been saying the same thing about Suarez and Duvall. Eugenio just doesn’t hit righties well enough to be a starting third baseman. Start him at third against lefties. Put Duvall at third against righties to open up the corners for Winker and Schebler. Give Eugenio spot starts vs righties at second and third to give Herrera and Peraza a break. Eugenio would get about 300-350 pa and the Reds get more production all around

        This assumes that the Reds trade Cozart and come to some kind Co agreement with BP. Peraza and Herrera have to be starting on opening day if the Reds are serious about this quick turnaround.

      • Suarez is beginning to show glimmers of competence at third, and did not look good at short. Duvall played the best leftfield that the Reds have seen in awhile, and is reputed to be sub-par at third. Why weaken the defence?

    • When the GM tells the Media on Sunday that middle infield is a strength then within a couple of days claims another middle infielder off waivers then take your pick:

      A) He was whistling “Dixie” when he said middle IF was a strength.

      B) Somebody or more than one somebody is on his way out of town.

      C) Some combination of both of the above.

      • I think they just saw a player available who they really liked at some time in the recent or distant past, and decided to place a claim. Getting more talent on the roster at all positions is probably more of a factor than specifically looking for an infielder. I suspect if someone appears on waivers who they like better than Alcantara, he might be off the roster as fast as was Kivlehan.

        • Agree Alcantara would be gone if they found somebody they liked better; but, I think he raises the bar considerably over Kivlehan. He is a legit backup/ spot starter in CF along with 2B/SS/ and LF. He’s played some 3B. No doubt he could play 1B (or in LF to free Duvall to fill on at 1B a Votto day off). Offensively he’s switch hitter.

          Having guy like him creates the spot for a 3rd catcher or ham handed power bat on the bench. The Reds may well need both of those, at least at the outset of 2017.

      • I dunno. Sometimes if you are rebuilding you just have to go with “best talent available” regardless of position and let time/injuries/trades work the rest out.

        • True, and in fact Alcantara does also profile as a legitimate OF, at least defensively, not just as a middle IF with the speed to reasonable acquit himself in the OF.

    • I will specify, I wasn’t talking at all about how many “starters” we have for 2nd and SS. I was talking about how many (what I will call) “quality” middle IF’s we have. We definitely have questions to be answered. Do we trade some? Can we trade some (easy to say “trade some”, more difficult to actually find that partner to trade with)? Who starts? Who comes off the bench? Who goes back to AAA? Who leaves?

      And, yes, I was even thinking about what happens if we find another LF and bring Duvall in for 3rd, moving Suarez over? Definite questions needing to be answered.

  2. Interesting analysis. Honestly, with all of our young infield depth (Peraza, Herrera, Suárez, Senzel, Blandino, Alfredo Rodriguez, etc.) I would be a bit surprised if Alcantara is a significant part of the Reds’ future. Then again, I’m sure I probably would have thought the same about Phillips at the time, and we all know how that ended.

    • Add these into the mix at AA or higher.
      2B/3B Seth Mejias-Brean
      2B/3B Brandon Dixon
      2B Shed Long
      SS Calten Daal.

      • Dixon, Long and Mejias-Brean don’t rate in the team’s top 30 prospects, so that’s why I didn’t include them specifically. I think Alcantara would be more likely than either of those 3 to be a Major League starter.

        I should have included Calten Daal and SS Blake Trahan in my original list, though, since they are #19 and #20 according to MLB.com’s rankings.

  3. With Hamilton’s tendency to get injured and a need for a backup middle infielder, Alcantara could be an option on the bench to backup whoever starts a 2B/SS and Hamilton. Schebler is probably the only option in CF right now if Hamilton needs some time off. DeJesus is probably the backup middle infielder at this point and I don’t think anyone counts on him to provide significant value

  4. I think Alcantayra is a significant upgrade over Kivlehan, he may not be on the 25 man roster coming out of spring training but but I would much rather have him in Louisville in tae of injury than Kivlehan, much more upside.

  5. Alcantara is a good pickup. It shows a desire to pad with as much upside as possible. That’s what an organization needs to do. He probably was more of a B prospect while coming up with the Cubs. But wouldnt be the first time some age and maturity turned a formerly hyped prospect into a solid major leaguer. Javier Baez resembles this a bit, as well. Reds are in a position to roll some dice, and this was decent.

  6. I would clearly rather have this kid as the utility guy over Dejesus.This season was about the max you are going to get from Dejesus while this kid has tons of untapped talent,And he can steal a base now and then as well.And he is younger.And he can play cf so we can dump Holt.A decent piece,possibly.Very little to lose with this claim and a possible large return.

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