We’ve been waiting for the callup to happen for months. Every single day there was a question form someone asking me – when will the Astros call up Yordan Alvarez? The answer has finally been answered. After months of blistering minor league pitching, the Astros are finally going to give their young slugger a shot to carve out a role for himself in the big leagues. Let’s take a look at his game and likely playing time situation moving forward.

21 years old

Bats/Throws: Left/Right

Height/Weight: 6’1”, 205 lbs

Position: First Base, Outfield, DH

THE NUMBERS

                 
 

Level

Games

AVG

HR

RBI

Runs

SB

OPS

2017

A, High-A

90

.304

12

69

45

8

.859

2018

AA, AAA

88

.293

20

74

63

6

.904

2019

AAA

56

.343

23

71

50

2

1.184

 

Per

162

.311

56

218

165

18

.956

 

       

 

Baseball America

Baseball Prospectus

MLB.com

2018

62nd  

 

 

2019

 34th

49th  

44th  

THE SKILLS

From the preseason rookie writeup in the Draft Guide (written in January).  

The club from Houston seems to have about 39 options to play the outfield and first base. Alvarez crushed Double-A pitching with a 1.005 OPS, but his move to Triple-A saw his OPS drop to .801. The Cuban defector is just 21 years old, but he’s already man-sized at 6’5”, 225 lbs. while being rather athletic for his size. He uses the whole field, but despite his size he’s not a masher up there. He could use some more seasoning, and his skill set just doesn’t stand out in an appreciably way given his defensive position.

Alvarez is a big man who uses plus bat speed to blast the ball all over the park, and nine of his 20 homers hit last season were to center field or left (more on that in a moment). He has a pretty compact hack for a guy his size, and he’s been on nearly every pitch thrown his way this season. He also understands the strike zone extremely well for a mere 21 year old, and usually stays within himself relying on his natural talents versus trying to muscle up on the ball. See the 0.76 BB/K ratio he’s posted this season at Triple-A.

As for the batted ball profile this season, here’s some really interesting data that speaks to his development as a hitter, but also might signify that the homers may not come in abundance this season with the Astros, despite that big blast in his first game.

Alvarez had a 32 percent pull rate, hit 29 percent of batted balls up the middle and 39 percent to the opposite field at Triple-A this season. He uses the whole field, but so many balls to the opposite field could be a homer issue. Further, Alvarez had a mere 32 percent fly ball rate, which is about four percent below the league average. So how did Alvarez hit all those homers in the minors? You guessed it; he had a massive HR/FB ratio. That’s not hyperbole. When you post a 44 percent HR/FB ratio, you have a massive, not sustainable on this planet, mark. So, to be clear, Alvarez hasn’t hit the ball in the air at a league average level this season, and has a HR/FB rate that could, easily, be cut in half the rest of the way. That’s a damper on his homer outlook.

There hasn’t really been any split issue for Alvarez this season in the minors.

He had a 1.161 OPS at home.

He had a 1.217 OPS on the road.

He had a 1.121 OPS against lefties.

He had a 1.209 OPS against righties.

His arm is average, his defense might struggle to be average, and though he moves well for a man his size, he’s no threat to steal bases with merely average speed.

PLAYING TIME

Let’s just be clear about this. Alvarez is a DH waiting to happen. The team won’t use him there full-time, he’s too young to be given up on defensively, but he’s simply not up to speed with the glove on his hand. The Cuban born slugger has appeared at 40 games at first base and 135 games in the outfield the last three plus years, and this season at Triple-A he’s been at first base nine times, DH 18 times and in the outfield 29 times. He will not be playing first base with the Astros.

Here is what manager A.J. Hinch had to say. “… go away from 13 pitchers for the time being. I don’t know how long that will last.” Hinch went on to say that he need to play in the outfield. “It’s important for him… and for our roster to function the way that I’d like… we’re gonna test him.” Of course, though he homered in his first game Sunday, he was in the DH slot hitting fifth.

Where will he play long term? Well, if he’s not playing first base, and the team really doesn’t want him to fill the DH role full-time, it gets difficult to see how this thing plays out when George Springer (hamstring) is back from the DL (which seems like it could happen by the end of the week or so). It would seem that Tyler White is likely out of luck and will see his role vanish, but when Springer/Jose Altuve/Carlos Correa are all good to go, and with Yuli Gurriel also around (eight RBI in seven game), it’s gonna have to be the DH spot for Alvarez more than expected or he could be shipped back to the minors (the OF will be Michael Brantley, Springer and Josh Reddick most days) as teams are reluctant to let young, potential stars, waste away on the bench as 50 percent in the game types.

Finally, don’t forget that Kyler Tucker is also waiting in the wings, and it’s clear that he is a better all-around player than Alvarez. Oh, and Tucker has been mashing in the minors as well, with 21 homers and 14 steals in just 58 games which includes a 1.169 OPS in May and a 1.192 mark in June. If Alvarez stumbles a bit, would the Astros call up Tucker

CONCLUSION

This is a legit question that I was sent on Twitter after the callup. “drop Eloy for Yordan Alvarez? 10tm h2h pts keeper league.” A short time later I received this follow up from another person “whut about a standard 5xt roto?” This is part of the problem in fantasy, folks just jumping from one rookie to the other. (1) It’s not a recipe for success. (2) Eloy Jimenez, according to probably every talent evaluator in the world three months ago, was a better prospect than Alvarez. (3) Even with 2+ months in the books this season, there’s no reason to think that long-term Eloy wont at least be a match for Alvarez with the bat. At least.

Alvarez should be added in every league unless your setup is a very odd one. He’s been too hot all season long to think that his promotion to the bigs will end up with his bat stalled out. That said, if the Astros are healthy, playing time could become an issue for Alvarez, especially since his glove doesn’t really say ‘put me in coach.’ There’s also Mr. Tucker lurking in the minors if Alvarez starts slowly. Alvarez isn’t likely to maintain that 40-homer pace, but his ability to spread the ball around the field does bode well for his batting average outlook. The cost almost certainly was massive, upwards of 50 percent of FAAB budgets were spent to add him if he was still available, so let’s rock and roll.

 

Ray Flowers can be heard Monday-Friday, 8-10 PM EDT on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87). Follow Ray’s work on Twitter (@baseballguys) and be sure to listen to his podcast work too