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Dodgers Farm System: Breaking Down Pitcher Yadier Alvarez

Dodgers

Every Friday we will be doing a profile and analysis of a farmhand on our team. We will look at their background, the kinds of future projections scouts generally have about them, associated risk with them booming or busting, and then our personal take on what they will most likely become as a ball player. We will do one a week up until pitchers and catchers report, and will be counting down our top ten prospects (more or less who I see to be our top ten).

Previous Prospects: #10 Dennis Santana; #9 Will Smith; #8 DJ Peters; #7 Yusniel Diaz; #6 Jeren Kendall#5 Mitchell White

Today we are covering our #4 prospect Yadier Alvarez.

The Basics

  • Name: Yadier Alvarez
  • DOB/Age: March 7th, 1996 / 21 years old
  • Height/Weight: 6’3″ / 175lbs
  • Home State/Country: Cuba
  • Highest Level Reached: AA
  • On the 40-Man Roster: No
  • ETA: 2020

Other Notable Rankings

  • Baseball America: #5
  • Baseball Prospectus: #3
  • MLB.com: #3
  • TrueBlueLA: #4
  • Dodgers Digest: #2 (mid-season)

Risk Level

(1-10, with 1 being very low, and 10 being very high)

6 – Yadier Alvarez is another high-risk, high-reward prospect – similar to Jeren Kendall. But not quite as high risk. The issue with Alvarez in particular is that the Dodgers paid such an huge bonus for him ($32 million including penalties), and his potential ceiling is so high that anything short of it would be disappointing. For Alvarez, his ceiling is simply that of an ace – a #1 in a rotation. But he is still very raw, and his prospect star is so volatile that there doesn’t appear to be a middle ground for him. We will dive more into what his potential floor is, but when we are talking about someone who has raw stuff like Alvarez, you are looking at hopefully an ace in the making.

The Past

Born and raised in Cuba, Alvarez was the prize for the Dodgers during their 2015-2016 international spending spree. The Dodgers gave him a $16 million dollar bonus (plus the additional $16 for exceeding the bonus limits) in order to sign him. So all told the Dodgers have about $32 million invested in this young fireballer from Cuba. When scouts first saw him the first thing that immediately stood out was how easily he could reach the mid to high 90s with his fastball. His delivery was clean, and seemingly effortless. Yet, he was registering near triple digits. That alone was enough to catch the eye of the Dodgers’ front office.

In 2016 Alvarez threw an extremely impressive 59.1 innings at rookie-level and single-A Great Lakes. He put up a combined 2.12 ERA, struck out 12.3 batters per 9 innings, and walked 3.2 per 9 innings. Indeed with a performance like that it is easy to see why he became an instant sensation. Certainly even more so than Walker Buehler at the time. For a raw, 20 year old out of Cuba to be mowing hitters down at rates like that, looked like money well spent.

The Present

Fast-forward to the 2017 season. Alvarez’s enters the season with extremely high expectations. Universally he is tabbed as a top 3 prospect in the Dodgers’ system, and a top 100 prospect overall. Needless to say, it seems he took a step backwards in 2017. Most of this is due to a failure of his ability to command his secondary pitches. Alvarez pitched to a very mediocre 4.68 ERA, 9.5 K/9, and an ugly 4.9 BB/9 in 92.1 innings. Despite the rather unsightly ERA and walks numbers, and the regression in strikeout numbers, there were still plenty of positives that came out of 2017.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxCJVeLhMww

For one thing Alvarez almost doubled his workload from the previous year. Which is always what you want to see from a young, raw starter like him. He also made it all the way to AA, and actually pitched better there: 3.55 ERA, 9.8 K/9. Additionally, though the strikeout numbers dipped, they were still solid. And on top of that his stuff was still showing well. Armed with a plus-plus fastball that can touch triple digits, and no less than 2 potential plus-plus secondary offerings, Alvarez still shows ace potential. Which is how he’s been able to maintain most of his prospect star.

For some though, last season showed too much regression, and he has seen his stock drop significantly. Baseball America recently released their top 100 prospects list, and curiously Alvarez was left off of it. Now, Alvarez is situated just barely outside of the top 100, but still it was an interesting choice nonetheless.

The Future

So what does the future hold for this young Cuban flamethrower? Well, there is still a good chance he can add a little additional weight to his frame, and increase his endurance. Making it to AA last season was definitely a plus, and he should start the season there again. It would not be surprising to see him make it to AAA Oklahoma City by years end. The key for Alvarez in the upcoming season is to improve his control of his secondary pitches. If he ever hopes to be a decent starter, he needs to keep his walks to under 4 batters per 9 innings.

The combination of his plus-plus fastball, sweeping slider, and hard biting curveball give him 3 striketout pitches. And though his change-up lags a little bit because his arm action slows noticeably on the pitch, it still has good downward movement. If everything clicks for Yadier Alvarez, he will have 4 plus or better pitches. Even if he is walking around 3.5 to 4 batters per 9, but striking out 10 to 11 per 9, he will be a #2 fringe-ace like Greinke was for us.

So Alvarez’s ceiling is well established: an ace caliber pitcher. But what about his floor? The mere fact he can touch triple digits with his fastball is enough to scream: late inning ace reliever. He commands his slider well enough to where if he becomes a reliever he can focus on making just that pitch better. With that type of fastball-slider combo, he could be an elite-quality reliever. But, as was stated above, anything short of becoming a starter would be a disappointment becuase of the amount of money invested in Alvarez.

Yadier Alvarez’s Bottom Line

We shall see where he goes this year. Hopefully he can regain some control of those secondary pitches, and continue his rise in our system. If all goes well, he honestly could arrive by 2019. However, it is most likely he will need a full season at AAA in 2019 before he makes his debut in 2020.

Written by Blake Coble

Born and raised in SoCal and bled Blue my whole life. Absolutely love baseball and absolutely love the Boys in Blue! I have a fascination with analyzing the statistics and trends that drive player performance, and I love following our minor league prospects as well! Active duty Air Force currently stationed in Central California! Follow me on Twitter @yarritsblake

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