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August 25, 2011 at 3:26 PM

The Book: Raul Alcantara

RHP Raul Alcantara
Date: August 22, 2011
Team: Lowell Spinners
Age: 18

5.0 innings, 8 hits, 1 earned run, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk, 69 pitches

Fastball: Alcantara’s outing was very fastball dominant, throwing the pitch 47 times and using it heavily in each of his 5 innings of work. Sitting 90-92 MPH the majority of the night, his heater can show strong late finish and downward movement at the tail end of its approach to home plate when he is keeping on top of the ball. Despite throwing the pitch for strikes 70-percent of the time, he did not command this offering well and his command graded as below-average in this start. Alcantara missed spots with frequency and also left it in the middle of the plate far too often. Opposing batters racked up four well hit doubles along with a couple of ringing singles against it. When Alcantara did spot up with his fastball it was across the plate. The pitch displayed its best finish in this area, slicing downward through the outside corner. He had trouble throwing his fastball arm-side much of the outing. On a few deliveries it showed a little tail into right-handed batters, but it was difficult to tell if this was actually by design.

Secondary Offerings: Alcantara sprinkled in his secondary stuff as the outing progressed. The most effective one in this start was his 82-83 MPH slider. He picked up all three of his strikeouts with this offering, snapping off an especially tight slider with hard tilt in the second inning to produce the swing and miss. However, most of his sliders rolled towards the plate and were on the loopy side. Alcantara was inconsistent producing hard snap with the pitch and it’s currently a slightly below-average offering, but it showed flashes of plus potential. The pitch has projection to round into a power slider as he improves his consistency snapping it off. Alcantara also broke out a changeup, throwing it 7 of the 10 times he used it in the third inning. This offering operated 83-86 MPH and looked more like a fastball he was taking something off of. Alcantara’s changeup did show bottom dropping action though and not much variation in his arm-speed when he delivered it. As he learns to feel this pitch, it also looks to have strong potential for improvement.

Take: The first thing that sticks out when watching Alcantara is how projectable his frame is. On the lean side, there is plenty of room for him to pack on weight and get stronger. I can see him over the next three years or so adding 30-35 pounds as he begins to mature into his early-20s. Alcantara cranked his fastball up to 93 MPH a couple of times early, but by his fourth inning his velocity began to dip into the high-80s and he began to over-throw. He has a live arm, but at this point in the season looked a little worn down. As he fills out and physically matures, there is also a lot of projection for his sitting velocity to tick up into the 93-94 MPH range and be able to hold it longer due to increased stamina. Despite being rough and raw, he showed a solid foundation of raw stuff and the type that can round into that of a starting pitcher.

I also couldn’t help but think how closely Alcantara’s delivery and physical statue at this stage of his development resembled another 18-year-old pitcher who I saw pitch with Lowell, right-handed starter Stolmy Pimentel. While their repertoires are different, the resemblance of the two down to the same high 3/4 arm slot is uncanny. Alcantara is a bit less polished overall at the same point in time, but his fastball also shows more movement. In addition to learning how to command his fastball, the development of his slider is a key need going forward. Even though the depth of the pitch was inconsistent, Alcantara showed that he has some feel for it, which is a good sign that he can tighten it up as he progresses with his development. Progress with his slider will allow him to miss more bats and also make a smoother transition to full-season baseball. Based on this start, his stuff didn’t quite look to be on that level yet though. Neither his slider nor changeup are presently pitches that hitter’s will chase consistently. How his stuff progresses from this point to next year’s Spring Training will be interesting to follow and will be a leading factor in his initial placement next season. Just based on the first scouting look, Alcantara’s ceiling appears to be as a third starter.