Whatever Happened to Yadier Alvarez?

alvarez
(Los Angeles Times Photo)

Once a household name on the prospect circuit, Yadier Alvarez is lucky to find himself among the Dodgers‘ Top 100 future stars today.

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.

 

15 thoughts on “Whatever Happened to Yadier Alvarez?

  1. Well, it might not be a stretch to assume handing $16 million to an 18 year old may stunt his growth. Certain life lessons can only be learned through struggle. Maturity is never guaranteed. Where is his motivation to come from?

    That said I don’t know the man. Maybe it it’s going to take him longer. He’s 24 in March. I certainly wouldn’t give up on him. Arms like his are rare.

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      1. Actually it is. 1000 players a year for 30 years and we got a handful of late bloomers. The league is getting younger, and we need to do a better job with prospects when they are young. Move them up and move them out. Dont see the point in a 26/28 year old farmhand.

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  2. $16M to Alvarez, $28M to Guerrero, $25M to Arruebarrena , $30M to Sierra, $62.5M to Olivera, $8M to Fernandez. Over $169M to this group with almost no benefit. Only Puig was with the money given to him. I think my Dodgers need to rethink their strategy concerning Cuban ball players. This doesn’t even include other monies spent on these investments.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, when you put it that way….

      Dang.

      Alvarez can still throw the ball 100 mph. He’s only 24. I sure hope they can help him get his head out of his ass. So much talent.

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    2. A lot of money, that’s for sure. But remember, it was all part of the new ownership plan when they came in.
      First was the blockbuster trade that brought Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Becket and Nick Punto (I think another player too) from Boston to immediately upgrade the big league club.
      The money on the Cuban players was all part of improving the farm system. International signings were the only place without a $$ limit on acquiring talent and also had no draft – find’em and sign’em. So they tossed a bunch of money at those kids and hoped some would stick.
      Whether they all were perfect didn’t matter – I was excited to see the Dodgers “go for it,” spend money and try to improve the team. Something must have worked!
      Those early years jaded our view as fans. If they’ll through $169 million at some Cuban kids, why not open the checkbook for Cole, Strassburg or Rendon?

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      1. Exactly. They have pissed away so much money, yet they don’t seem to want to invest 8n proven free agent stars. I understand it’s a different situation with the roster and luxury tax and so on, plus their current crop of young studs will be earning substantially more in the coming years.

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  3. Some of what you guys are talking about happened under Ned Colletti’s watch. During his tenure with the Dodgers he had the highest winning percentage of any GM in the National League. The Dodgers were Topps Organization of the Year and set home attendance records with him in charge. It’s generally accepted that he was canned in 2014 because the Dodgers failed to win a Championship after spending all that money. Since then the dance continues with Friedman.

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  4. The Dodgers were 30-22 vs LHP in ‘19

    Here are the team splits

    https://www.espn.com/mlb/team/splits/_/name/lad/seasontype/2

    We had 2000 more at bats vs RHP than LHP. The league is approximately 60/40 RHP to LHP. If Verdugo and Seager can remain healthy all year, that’s 2 spots in the order to go along with others that we don’t need to platoon. I think LF is actually the only spot where that is needed. I just don’t understand the talk about the need for a right handed power bat. If one slides to us, ok. But I’m fine with giving Pollock those at bats and going with the rest of our regulars against everybody.

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  5. I know hind sight is 20/20, but I don’t think any of the Cubans from any of the teams have really lived up to the hype. Puig was decent, but after his first season he was around average, cespedes showed some promise, but he’s been hurt for three years it seems like. Abreau from the Sox is probably the only one that has earned his money.

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    1. There are more Cubans in MLB then either of us probably realize. Gurriel of the Astros has been great and his younger brother with Toronto is starting to come on as well. The Dodgers Just haven’t done very well with theirs.

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