Alcantara, 18, has been a revelation in his first season in the United States. Working off a fastball that has reportedly hit 95 miles per hour, Alcantara began the campaign with 3 scoreless starts and didn't allow an earned run until his 19th inning of work. He wasn't charged with an earned run in 6 of his 9 Gulf Coast League starts. In 48 innings of work, Alcantara had a 0.75 ERA and held opponents to a .147 batting average. He allowed no more than 5 hits in a start and picked up 11 of his 36 strikeouts in his final Gulf Coast League game on Aug. 11.
He's an 18 year old already throwing 95, and this article doesn't even mention what is reportedly an advanced power curveball. This makes me excited. SoxProspects.com, a more impartial and unbiased site than you might initially think, has him rated as their #21 prospect in the Sox system as of Monday, but that was before the August 15th "signing day." It's hard to see him being rated ahead of a polished college pitcher like Matt Barnes when the new rankings come out, but I expect him to push into the top 15.
You may be asking why would promote him to Lowell now, when he'll only get three or four starts there. My thinking is that it's to see how hard they can push him next year. If he dominates in Lowell, even if it's just for a couple starts, they almost have to give him a shot in a full season league. They may end up pulling the plug on him after 120 or so innings, but they'll certainly want to see him against more advanced competition. Just as much as the physical growth, I'm sure they want to see how he handles the different culture. The Gulf Coast League is primarily international free agents, with quite a few high school players mixed in, while the New York-Penn League has quite a few more college players. There, he'll be taken a bit out of his comfort zone. That, as much as his advanced stuff, will determine his success.
For the Red Sox, this has to be a hugely satisfying development. They've spent quite a bit of money internationally, but have rarely come away with top prospects. Even Jose Iglesias, rated by many as their top prospect heading into the season, has struggled mightily in AAA Pawtucket. To have a prospect break through the way Alcantara has in the GCL is huge, and while it's a long way from Fenway Park, it will be exciting to watch him climb through the system and up prospect lists. Get on the bandwagon now.