(Photo Credit: todaysknuckleball.com)
It’s been quite awhile since we last checked in with pitching prospect Yadier Alvarez, and although the Dodgers have been very prudent with the advancement of the 20-year-old Cuban righty, he’s still turning heads with his raw talent on the lower levels of the farm.
After being promoted to Great Lakes from the Arizona League Dodgers earlier in the week, Alvarez made his Low-A debut against Kane County on Wednesday, dazzling all of those who were in attendance. He threw five solid innings and surrendered only three hits, one walk and one earned run, while striking out an impressive 10 Cougar batters.
Facing his final batter of the evening in the top of the fifth, Alvarez touched 100 MPH on the radar gun to earn a punchout with his last pitch of the contest. He threw a total of 68 pitches — 52 for strikes.
Prior to joining the Loons, the hard-throwing right-hander made five starts for the AZL Dodgers, tallying a 1.80 ERA, a 0.95 WHIP and a 11.7 K/9 over an even 20 innings of work.
When we initially took a glance at Alvarez last December, he didn’t have much of a track record in terms of organized baseball, and it remained somewhat of a mystery the exact type of skill set he would bring along with him to the farm. Now that he’s beginning to progress through the lower levels of the minors, reports from many of the scouts have been outstanding.
As far as his repertoire, Alvarez features a four-seamer that varies in velocity in the 92-100 MPH range. His slider is by far his best breaking pitch, often being clocked around 20 MPH slower than his fastest heater. His change and curveball are still in the developmental stages, but were already beginning to show promise in the Arizona League.
People who follow Alvarez closely believe that he could make an impact as a reliever early in his career, yet many of the pundits see his best potential as a starter, so long as he continues to sharpen his command. Some scouts have even uttered a conceivable ceiling of a #2 starting pitcher.
Having just turned 20-years-old in March, he’s still in need of some time to fill out his 6’3″, 175 lb. frame. Nevertheless, Dodgers’ Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations Josh Byrnes is excited to watch Alvarez develop.
“He’s one of the more talented right-handed pitchers we’ve seen. A lot of us have been doing this a long time,” Byrnes said. “He has a prototypical body, with high-end velocity. We’ve seen him consistently 92-97 mph, occasionally touching 99-100. There is very little effort, a pretty good feel for secondary pitches, and he’s a pretty good strike-thrower. He’s got a long way to go, but his foundation, his ingredients for his age are pretty rare, so we’re excited to have him.”
If he stays on course and consistently improves his pitching control, Alvarez may zip through the Low-A level and possible begin the season with High-A Rancho Cucamonga next year.