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Kevin Alcántara and Owen Caissie focus on progress rather than pressure


MESA, Ariz. — Kevin Alcántara grinned as he thought about the 415-foot home run he hit the day before.

A five-day break between Cactus League matches due to a mild hamstring issue did not hinder Alcántara’s timing on the field. The Chicago Cubs’ No. 5 prospect undoubtedly reached center field with his solo home run on Sunday; This was his first match of the spring, and he showed tremendous strength while reaching 6 feet tall.

“From a physical standpoint, I feel like it’s there, I feel like I have it now,” Alcántara told the Tribune through a translator. “I just want to keep improving mentally. A lot of players have the physical side but if you don’t have the mental side, that’s how you take it to the next level.

“For me, it’s like I’m ready. “I’m ready to take it to the next level, which is the big leagues.”

Alcántara reached Double A at the end of last season and learned how the strike zone continues to shrink as pitchers gain better command as they climb each level. He knows he needs to continue to evolve his approach and what he’s oriented towards. Alcántara deals damage on contact. This is an exciting combination given his ability to play midfield and his all-around athleticism.

“He’s got the ‘Jaguar’ mentality. I know you see the Jaguar side of him, and when you see that you’ll know he’s in a different mode,” assistant general manager Jared Banner said Monday, referring to Alcántara’s nickname. “He really believes in himself. He knows how talented he is and plans to become a really good baseball player. “It’s getting closer every day.”

Chicago Cubs outfielder Owen Caissie loses his cap while chasing a ball during practice Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune)

Alcántara joins Pete Crow-Armstrong and Owen Caissie as promising young talents in the outfield. Nearing the halfway point of the spring schedule, Caissie has emerged as the Cubs’ hottest hitter. Caissie, who collected a single in Monday’s 2-1 loss against the San Diego Padres, is 9-for-17 (.529) with two doubles, one home run, six RBIs, three walks and four strikeouts in eight games.

Caissie, who attended his first major league camp as a non-roster invitee, spent the 2023 season at Double-A Tennessee as one of the youngest players in the Southern League. He slashed .289/.399/.519 with 22 home runs and 31 doubles to help the Smokies win the league title. When Caissie reflects on his amazing season, it’s not the numbers that stand out.

“The biggest takeaway was to be mentally strong,” Caissie told the Tribune. “I want to carry that into the season, I just want to be at peace with myself on the pitch, really be level-headed with everything. Failure will happen and I need to accept that. That was the most important thing for me, not to be put under so much pressure to fail because even the best fail.” “It’s happening, and if I want to get to where I want to be, I have to accept it.”

Caissie, who spent part of his offseason working out at Cressey Sports Performance in Florida, focused on improving his mental game, getting stronger and improving against left-handers coming into spring training. Left-to-left matchups are often difficult for batsmen and Caissie wants to feel more comfortable taking more reps in those situations. He hit .224 with a .331 on-base percentage and .755 OPS against lefties in 2023. Caissie took a lot of batting practice off-season on left-handers and left-angle machines.


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