Fantasy Baseball

Fake Scouting Yordan Alvarez, Thrower of Left Hooks

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For my third fake scouting adventure, I will be following Yordan Alvarez and the Corpus Christi Hooks of the Texas League. They are coming to town for a 4th of July series against my hometown Naturals in the great Northwest Arkansas area.

Unlike the other times, this was a spur of the moment trip for me. I was planning on having a busy Monday, but it didn’t turn out that way for one reason or another. During my normal Twitter run-through, I ran across the Naturals’ promotion of their next game and was immediately interested.

Alvarez has been a very interesting player to me because of what he could represent for Houston in the future. First base is the only real hole that the defending World Series champions have. Alvarez has been an off-limits commodity for them in trade talks. They think highly of him and I tend to trust smart organizations in these situations. Even if the Astros get a rental first baseman in the trade market this season, he’s just going to be a stepping stone to the future. The Astros believe in Alvarez as that future and the fantasy community shouldn’t be ruling out the impact he could have as soon as 2019.


Enough introduction, it’s time to evaluate Alvarez and break down some tape of his time at Arvest Ballpark in Rogers, AR!

Side Note: Name of the game goes to Bryan Brickhouse, a reliever for the Naturals. How he doesn’t have the obvious song choice as his warm-up song, I don’t know…

Fake Scouting Yordan Alvarez

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Background

It was a 6:35 PM start time with a pretty good crowd there (mostly to see post-game fireworks). Despite being a particularly cloudy day, the heat was still real at around 93°F. Anticipating some left-handed swings, I asked for some seats in Section 114. When it is revealed to me that Section 114 is a family section that didn’t allow alcoholic beverages, this solo drunkie settled on tickets in Section 113.

My angle on the at-bats wasn’t as good as I had hoped, but at least I was able to partake in half-price draft beer night. I love minor league baseball…

Lineups

Corpus Christi Hooks

Well, shoot. Alvarez is the DH in this matchup. I keep missing these prospects in the field! I didn’t really recognize any of the other names for the Hooks other than Cesar. However, isn’t that the beauty of attending these games is seeing new faces? Besides, it appears that all of their best talents have progressed through Double-A and is now at Triple-A.

Northwest Arkansas Naturals

There’s the Naturals lineup we’ve all come to love! Khalil Lee is back in the lineup off that game where he got popped in the face with a fastball (more on him later). This lineup actually flows pretty well between handedness and style of batter. I think that’s what separates this team’s success from other Texas League squads – it’s a good lineup top to bottom.

It was Scott Blewitt (pitches to contact, 5.73 ERA) on the mound tonight. Hopefully, his last name is not going to be indicative of his performance, but the statistics don’t lie.

Yordan Alvarez, 21, 1B/OF

Upon first glance, Alvarez is an imposing figure. He’s listed measurements at 6’5″ and 225 lbs – which has to be on the safe end. He’s a huge ass dude and immediately requires a second take. Physically, he compares to someone like Freddie Freeman with a little more stomach. This isn’t to call him out of shape – he’s built like a tree.

Upon preliminary research of statistics, there isn’t much to complain about. The Astros have been aggressive with his assignments and he’s been up to the task. This season in Double-A, Alvarez is slashing 0.318/0.370/0.605 thru July 1st. His wOBA and wRC+ rank 3rd in the Texas League (min. 150 PA) behind two 24-year-olds. His home-run pace is matched by none in the league with 12 homers in just 40 games.

So, who doesn’t want to go check out a power-hitting prospect playing in a small-ish park? I double-fist a couple of IPA’s (so I don’t have to get up later, duh) and head down to my seat!

First At-Bat

Yordan Alvarez

Alvarez hit into a double play his first time up, but the potential here was easy to see. It goes down as a hard hit grounder to the shortstop who was shading very close to second base. In a normal shift, this is a base hit, but the Naturals were in double play depth.

On a 2-1 count, Alvarez was taking his natural swing and really does a great job of driving through the baseball with his hands. His upper body does everything correctly and it’s a beauty to watch. With natural strength in his lower half, he keeps an easy, repeatable swing. His hip movement here was a little tentative, but it wasn’t too bad.

At this point, I’m just begging the Naturals to keep throwing him strikes so he can inevitably smoke a few liners.

Second At-Bat

Yordan Alvarez

I almost missed this video, because he ambushed the first pitch of the at-bat. This was a double to deep right-center, and it was what I was expecting from the get-go. The hip movement was much more violent this time around on a fastball right down the pipe. Blewitt is lucky that this kept a lower launch angle.

For me, this is the definition of an effortless swing and is my favorite swing in the Texas League thus far. The leg kick is not overdrawn, the weight transfer and anchor of the plant foot are perfect, and his hands are super quiet in his load.

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Third At-Bat

Yordan Alvarez

Boy, we are really getting a clinic from Alvarez today. We started with a grounder up the middle that should’ve been a hit. Then, we got a deep line drive to the right-field gap. Now, we get an opposite-field liner to left-center on a 2-2 count. He doesn’t really change his swing at all between counts – it’s all just so easy and natural for him. What he does do is takes the ball where it’s pitched and doesn’t force what’s not there.

Fourth At-Bat

Well, he was intentionally walked. There was a runner on second with 2 outs and the Naturals decided to send him to first without throwing a pitch. This was irksome for me, but I understood the move. They ended up getting the next batter out and getting out of the jam in a tied game.

Fifth At-Bat

For the second straight scouting trip, I missed the chance at a home run video in the final at-bat of my stud prospect’s day. My phone died on 3% battery as I was about to start the video and that’s all she wrote. Don’t call it a video curse!

This ball was absolutely smoked and everyone could see it coming. The pitcher was unraveling after allowing a couple of hits beforehand and suffering an error that should’ve ended the game. Then, Alvarez comes up and smashes an 87 MPH slider over the left-field wall. If I had to guess, it probably went 360′ – it smacked the highest part of the bullpen wall right above the Corona logo (see previous videos).

His bat path naturally matches that of a quick-biting slider like this one. It was a beauty to watch from my view.

Final Thoughts

Either I caught Yordan Alvarez on a good day or he’s going to be a stud at the next level. He’s ranked in the 20’s and 30’s on most updated prospect rankings, but those are reality rankings. From a fantasy perspective, you’re getting a middle of the order power bat that hits to all fields. His potential floor is going to be a 30 HR bat with a high average and a stellar plate approach. I know that’s high praise and dangerous to project for a 21-year-old, but he’s just so damn impressive. I’m making it a point to see him again before he moves up to Triple-A and easily slides past AJ Reed and the other ‘older’ prospects at Triple-A Fresno.

The walk rates to this point in the minors will concern some, but I saw a hitter who frequently worked himself into hitter’s counts. He put a ball in play on counts of 2-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 3-1. He just got good pitches to drive and took advantage of them. We should get a better idea of how patient he can be when he hits Triple-A and pitchers are being more cautious of his power.

Lagniappe

Lagniappe was a common French term used during my tenure in Louisiana to describe “something given as a bonus or extra gift” to folks. I will add a little bonus section here for lesser-known players that caught my eye.

Khalil Lee, OF, Northwest Arkansas Naturals

As mentioned previously, seeing Lee return after a scary situation was awesome. The top prospect in the Royals system is just 20 years old and already making plenty of noise in the Texas League. I wrote about him in my last piece, but his presence took me by surprise on my last scouting visit. Unfazed this time, I took a couple of videos. Here’s a video of his opposite-field double in the second at-bat of his day:

Khalil Lee

Everything just happens so quickly with Lee that you have to watch it back a few times. His hands are incredibly quick to the ball. Like Alvarez, he also does a great job of going where the pitch takes him. In this instance, he pushes an outside fastball the other way down the line and turns it into a double with his natural speed out of the box.

Khalil Lee is the most exciting player on the field every time out. He’s getting a ton of love from the intelligent Naturals fans who know they may not see him here for long. When I say that, I mean that he’s the only player that I hear many fans cheer for by name. He’s going to sell a lot of jerseys in the future. His play in the Texas League has certainly turned heads and I plan on doing another one of these where he is the focus.

Jecksson Flores, 2B, Northwest Arkansas Naturals

Like Lee, I feel like I’m going to write about Jecksson Flores every time I do one of these things.

My gut feeling from last weekend manifested into another great game from the second baseman against the Hooks. When you exude confidence like Flores, great things can happen. He flew out in his first at-bat after seeing seven pitches on a full count. Then, another 3-2 count led to a hard-hit, opposite-field single to right. He followed that up with two doubles down the left-field line. On that second double, he stole third and forced an errant throw which allowed him to score the go-ahead run in the 8th. I hate cliches, but he’s certainly got the it-factor.

Additionally, he’s just an incredibly likable dude. When Alvarez doubled in the 4th inning, Flores went over there to exchange greetings. He looked at Alvarez’s neck chain and gave it a little playful tug as if to say ‘look good, play good’. Perhaps one day Flores will be rocking a nice chain of his own when he’s manning second for the Royals.

Embed from Getty Images

Randy Cesar, 1B/3B, Corpus Christi Hooks

Many of you will recognize the name and not remember where it arose. Cesar is the guy whose 42 game hitting streak was snapped last Friday. No matter the level, a hitting streak of that length is insane and should be revered!

When I saw him in the batter’s box, he looked way older than 23. He’s a monster of a human being and his 6’1″, 180 lb measurement on FanGraphs must be from years ago. I’m 6’1″, 185 lbs and I wouldn’t want to square this dude up in my dreams. (Not that I’m squaring up minor league batters in my dreams. Frequently.) I was too focused on Alvarez and Lee to take video with an almost-dead phone but was impressed by the day Cesar had.

He is a great table-setter for Alvarez in the three-hole and makes me wonder how often Alvarez sees a pitcher out of the windup. He ambushed a first-pitch fastball for a single between short and third his first time up. Also, he showed off a nice two-strike approach with an opposite-field liner in the 6th inning. Cesar definitely has a nice contact swing, but I was a bit turned off by the bat path for a guy of his bat speed and size. I don’t think there’s a ton to project here, but he could be one of those (weak side) platoon-ish first basemen if things break right.

Andy Pineda, OF, Corpus Christi Hooks

My surprise player of the day was Pineda as he wasn’t even listed on the Astros’ Roster Resource page. That section says ‘Minor Leaguers You Should Know’ and he didn’t make the cut or was a forgettable name. Yikes! And when you look at his career statistics, nothing between his rookie ball days and 2018 really scream ‘notable’.

However, I saw something a little different. Buried in the lineup at 8th, I was impressed by his first at-bat: an eight-pitch walk. In his next at-bat, the southpaw destroyed a fastball off the right-center wall, perhaps too hard. He was thrown out at third trying to stretch it into a triple. He’s got great speed, but the ball ricocheted off the wall hard enough to Khalil Lee for him to quickly get it to his cutoff man. Pineda ended his day with a bloop single to left and a competitive strikeout in his final at-bat.

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Look, I’m not here to come up with the next big out-of-nowhere prospect. That seems like something Carson Cistulli would do on FanGraphs. I’m nowhere near THAT level. However, I liked what I saw from the 21-year-old and don’t want to write him off. He’s going to be out there in every dynasty league and some leagues are just barren for talent on the waiver wire. If the youngster can put together a good season at Corpus Christi, who knows what can happen. The Astros could even use him as a sweetener in a 2018 trade, which would give him a better path to playing time in another system.


Thanks!

If you have any requests for Texas League write-ups, holler at me. I’ll see if I can catch a game where they come to Northwest Arkansas. To this point, I have seen half of the Texas League, so it’s just a matter of time! Until then, check out the rest of our great 2018 Fantasy Baseball content.

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About Tyler Thompson

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  1. Pingback: 2018 Fantasy Baseball Week 15 Pitching Planner: Change Is Gonna Come - Fantasy Six Pack

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