Despite a substandard 4.02 ERA over his career in the minors, things still seemed to be on the up-and-up for the native of Cuba when he was named to the team’s 40-man roster late in 2018. However, it was a series of unexcused absences that landed him on the restricted list just before rosters expanded last season.
Reporters stated that it was behavioral issues that initially got the righty into trouble. After Alvarez did not respond to internal disciplinary attempts by the organization, the final straw was the restricted list, which seemingly may have pushed him out of the organization for good.
After defecting from Cuba at the age of 18 and showcasing his skills in the Dominican Prospect League, the Dodgers signed Alvarez to a whopping $16 million bonus on the first day of the international signing period in July of 2015.
For offering a bonus so high and taking into account their other international signings, the Dodgers were forced to pay a penalty for surpassing international limits.
That’s how much the team liked him.
Senior VP Josh Byrnes, who is often the forgotten executive of the Los Angeles front office crew, had nothing but good things to say about Alvarez just after the signing.
“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.”
Within months of joining the organization, the 6-foot-3 Alvarez elevated into the Top 5 Rankings, peaking as high as No. 2 in the early stages of the 2017 campaign.
Things went well for Alvarez in 2016. For the Loons that year, he made nine starts and threw 39-1/3 innings, compiling a 2.29 ERA while punching out 55 batters. Prior to joining Great Lakes, he made five starts for the Arizona League Dodgers, tallying a 1.80 ERA, a 0.95 WHIP and a 11.7 K/9 over an even 20 innings of work.
“His fastball is a power fastball. He tops out at 100 MPH several times per game. He’ll sit around 96 and he’s got a sharp curve. You can tell the hitters were intimidated. For him to be as young as he is and have such an easy delivery and hit 100 is impressive,” said Gil Velazquez, manager of the Loons in 2016. “Honestly, I’m not surprised at what he’s done here. If he speeds up his delivery a little more and gets a little more aggressive, I feel he’s a guy who can be dominant in the majors.”
Alvarez would not be so fortunate.
In 2017 as a 21 year old, he made 21 appearances—18 of which were starts—between High-A Rancho and Double-A Tulsa, posting a 4-6 overall record with a 4.68 ERA and a monstrous 50 walks over 92-1/3 innings of work.
The following year he started off strong after being utilized strictly as a starter. He was even selected to the Texas League All-Star squad. However, after being moved to the bullpen, his second-half numbers destroyed his annual stat line. He ultimately finished with a 4.23 ERA and a horrid 44 walks in just 55-1/3 innings.
“We’re not going to rush him,” manager Dave Roberts said at the time. “He’s doing well.”
After 2018, he was still ranked as the 17th best prospect in the system.
Heading into 2019 spring training, the coaching staff engineered a rubber mechanism that connected Alvarez’s hip to his ankle in an effort to straighten out his delivery. He made two starts for Tulsa in April, but a groin injury triggered another nightmare season and his eventual downfall to the restricted list.
As far as 2020 goes, it could be the first year that Yadi isn’t lurking around the farm in some capacity.