While the Dodgers left the 2017 Winter Meetings with only a consolation prize of a mid-level infield prospect, many fans have taken to social media to express their respective concerns heading into 2018, especially in the area of the bullpen. It took several years for the team to finally find a competent setup man in Brandon Morrow, yet the veteran righty was able to walk away from Los Angeles and land a lucrative deal with the Cubs for the next several seasons. Andrew Friedman and his troops seem fairly confident in the internal relief options heading into 2018 spring training, but questions loom as to whether the impending bullpen will be talented enough to help guide the squad into next season’s playoff picture.
With the 2017 non-waiver trade deadline now only a handful of days away, pundits around the league are still just speculating about any potential moves from the Dodgers, as the club’s front office continues to appear relatively calm and quiet.
While the big league Dodgers appear to have worked out a few of the kinks from their early-season mediocrity, the boys at Oklahoma City also seem to be turning a rough corner, having stolen three out of four from Round Rock this past week, and orchestrating a huge come-from-behind victory against Fresno on Friday evening.
Now that the regular season is quickly approaching its third week, we’re finding out a bit more on a daily basis about why a handful of players in the Dodgers‘ system mysteriously disappeared from their normal roster statuses during the early phases of the 2017 campaign.
When long man Alex Wood was recently shifted back into the starting rotation and righty Josh Fields was recalled to the big league bullpen, a popular topic of conversation among fans of the Dodgers was the discussion surrounding the organizational depth of relief pitchers.
In between now and the last time we took a brief moment to see what was happening with pitching prospect Yadier Alvarez, not only did the 20-year-old Cuban righty breeze his way through rookie ball and impress at Low-A Great Lakes, but he also elevated himself into several of the Top 5 lists of Dodgers prospects published during this offseason.
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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.
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When we initially took a glance at pitching prospect Yadier Alvarez back in 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. Moreover, due to visa issues at the time, nobody within the Dodgers‘ organization had a firm idea as to when he would arrive stateside.
After defecting from Cuba at the age of 18 and showcasing his skills in the Dominican Prospect League, the Dodgers signed Álvarez to a $16 million bonus on the first day of the 2015-2016 international signing period last July.
He’s currently ranked as the 10th best prospect in the Dodgers organization by Ben Badler of Baseball America.
“Alvarez, 19, has been clocked anywhere from 92-98 mph with his fastball, with a skinny frame (6-foot-3, 175 pounds) and a quick arm. His secondary stuff is inconsistent, but he has flashed an above-average slider that’s ahead of his changeup, a pitch he’s still learning to maintain his arm speed when he throws one. There’s some wildness in the very limited track record that exists with Alvarez, who never pitched in Serie Nacional and did not make Cuba’s junior national team before he left the island.”
Dodgers Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations Josh Byrnes and other Dodgers scouts were intrigued by the velocity of Álvarez’s fastball and potential for plus breaking stuff dating back to December of 2014.
“He’s one of the more talented teenage 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.”
It’s hard to say this early if Álvarez has the stamina or durability to be a starter. He finished out 2015 by throwing 2-4 innings per clip during workouts in the Dominican Republic, and it’s probable he’ll begin his career in the States with the Arizona League Dodgers this spring.
If he proves capable of handling the role of being a starter, his value and ranking among Dodgers prospects will skyrocket.
Rookie ball will be a valuable gauge in assessing the true talent of Álvarez. If he measures up anywhere near his initial evaluations, the already stellar Dodgers farm system will have gotten just a little bit deeper.
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