Righthander Raul Alcantara once ranked as the Athletics’ top pitching prospect, but that was in 2014, and his development has taken many detours in the past four years.
The 25-year-old Alcantara pitched for Oakland in both 2016 and 2017, but he ran up a 7.19 ERA in 46 innings, working mostly as a September callup. However, he might have experienced a breakthrough following a move to the bullpen at Triple-A Nashville in 2017.
Alcantara hit 98 mph in the big leagues and also throws a slider, changeup and occasional curveball. The mix can make him effective when everything comes together.
Signed by the Red Sox out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, Alcantara joined the A’s organization after the 2011 season in the same trade that also yielded Josh Reddick. Alcantara progressed to Double-A Midland in 2014 but had Tommy John surgery early that season. He reached Nashville in 2016 but had not attained pre-injury form, a fact that became obvious in 2017, when Alcantra made Oakland’s Opening Day roster because he was out of minor league options.
He allowed 15 runs in seven big league innings, costing him his 40-man roster spot in April. Alcantara cleared waivers and spent the summer working as a reliever in the Pacific Coast League until earning his 40-man spot back in September.
“When I got sent down, I started thinking about where I was,” Alcantara said. “I believed I belonged (in the majors), and I started to work on all my pitches and my mechanics to get back.”
He accepted the move to the bullpen and quickly adjusted to the role. He recorded a 1.99 ERA in 15 appearances while striking out 15, walking six and allowing 24 hits in 22.2 innings.
“You could see his confidence grow,” minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson said. “Instead of thinking about how to manage five or six innings, he could go out there and focus on one inning at a time. He just kept getting better.”
Despite his apparent new role, Alcantara got the ball three times in late September when the A’s needed spot starts. He responded with a 2.77 ERA in 13 innings while striking out nine and allowing a .191 average, further clouding his future role in Oakland.
“I like it,” Alcantara said of relieving, “but wherever Oakland wants me to be, that’s where I’ll be.”