By: Adam Kline / Tennessee Smokies
KODAK, Tenn. – Five members of the 2013 Tennessee Smokies have been named to the Southern League Postseason All-Star Team Friday, as announced by the Southern League of Professional Baseball Clubs. Infielders Arismendy Alcantara, Javier Baez and Christian Villanueva join outfielder Matt Szczur and pitcher Kyle Hendricks as part of a group of 15 players to receive the year-end award, which is voted upon by the league’s field managers, radio broadcasters and print media.
Alcantara (second base), 21, has been stellar in his first season as a Double-A middle infielder. He currently ranks among the leaders in many offensive categories in the Southern League this season. Alcantara places second in the league in doubles (35) and extra-base hits (54), third in total hits (129) and fourth in at-bats (477), stolen bases (30) and total bases (217). His banner year also included a start on the North team in the Southern League All-Star Game in Jacksonville, Fla. The Santo Domingo, D.R. native signed with the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent in 2008.
Baez (shortstop), 20, has been a dominant force all season long, spending time between High-A Daytona and Tennessee. Since his call up from Daytona on July 6, Baez made his presence known, hitting a home run in his first at-bat with the Smokies. Since then, the right-handed shortstop has hit 17 more home runs, giving him 18 in Double-A, which is fifth most in the Southern League. With the Smokies this season, Baez hitting .299 (60-for-201) with 14 doubles and 49 RBIs in only 50 games. The accolades keep coming for the Cubs’ top prospect this season, being twice named Florida State League player of the Week, Florida State League All-Star and last week was named to the FSL postseason All-Star Team. Bayamon, Puerto Rico native was drafted by the Cubs in the first round (ninth overall) in the 2011 draft out of Arlington Country Day High School in Jacksonville, Fla.
Hendricks, 23, was named as the Southern League’s top right-handed pitcher in his first season in Double-A. He currently ranks sixth in Minor League Baseball with a 1.96 ERA (35 ER/160.1 IP) spending time between Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. Prior to his promotion to the I-Cubs on Aug. 8, Hendricks was 10-3 with a 1.85 ERA in 21 starts for the Smokies this season, and leads the Southern League in ERA and WHIP (1.05) and winning percentage (.769). Earlier this season, he was named the Cubs’ Minor League Pitcher of the Month for May and named Southern League Pitcher of the Month, for the week of June 3-10, which led him to be named starting pitcher in the Southern League All-Star Game. The Newport Beach, Calif. native was originally drafted by the Texas Rangers in the eighth round of the 201l draft out of Dartmouth College then was traded to the Cubs, along with Christian Villanueva, for RHP Ryan Dempster.
Szczur (outfield), 24, has been a staple in the Smokies outfield in his second season in Double-A. The right-handed outfielder leads the league in at bats (501) and hits (139) and ranks fourth in runs scores (75). Szczur held an 11-game hitting streak (June 21-July 4), where he hit .392 (20-for-51) with five doubles, a pair of triples and eight RBIs during that time. Szczur was also named starter in the 2013 Southern League All-Star Game. The Cape May, N.J. native was drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 draft out of Villanova University.
Villanueva (third base), 22, has been solid both offensively and defensively for the Smokies in his first Season in Double-A. He currently carries a .259 batting average (123-for-474) with 40 doubles, a pair triples, 17 home runs and 68 RBIs. His 40 doubles ranks him third in all of Minor League Baseball and his 59 extra-base hits leads the Southern League. The right-handed third basemen was named starter in the 2013 All-Star Game. The Guadalajara, Mexico native originally signed with Texas as a non-drafted free agent in 2008 and was traded to the Cubs, along with Kyle Hendricks, for RHP Ryan Dempster.