One of my favorite things to do at season’s end is to search John Sickels’ “The Baseball Prospect Book ___” and check in on his sleepers. It’s fun to see who actually woke up, and who stayed asleep.
Today we look at Cardinals second base prospect Eliezer Alvarez. Alvarez stands at 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds. He throws righty and bats lefty, so in the immortal words of Charles Shackleford, he is amphibious. The now-21 year old was signed out of the Dominican in 2011, Alvarez missed the bulk of the past three seasons either with injury or recovering from one.
Ready to play his first full season, John gave him a C+ as one of his sleepers. Despite having a four-year career thus far, the injuries left many question marks as to Alvarez really was, especially playing just one full season’s worth of games over those first three years. Let’s breakdown John’s write up and see how he came along in 2016.
His best tool is 65 or 70-grade speed although he needs to learn to use it better on the bases.
Heading into 2016, Alvarez was 28-for-42 in stolen base attempts throughout his injury riddled career. While 67 percent isn’t awful, someone with 70-grade speed should be much better in his attempt selection.
This season, Alvarez swiped 36 bases — which were tops in the Midwest League in 2016 — in 51 attempts. Technically speaking, Alvarez improved, as he was successful 69 percent of the time. While you can make the argument that someone with his speed tool will be sent more often, thus leading to a better chance of getting caught, this number still needs to be improved. Having not seen every stolen base attempt, I can’t tack it up to selection or jump, but it seems like Alvarez may be able to get it.
Not a big home run hitter to this point, he has gap power and could develop more.
Alvarez tallied 20 doubles in just 204 at bats in 2015, showing John’s assessment of gap power was right on. He also added two home runs.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise than, that in a full season of play, Alvarez nearly doubled his double output, finishing second in the Midwest League with 36 only to Eloy Jiminez’s 40. As John suggested, more power came as well, as Alvarez matched his career total with six home runs on the season.
In the spray chart from MLB Farm below, you’ll see that it seems that the lefty’s power numbers are more of the pull effect, putting four over the right field wall. You will also see how his speed plays into his extra base hits, as his doubles are sprayed to all fields, with six going down the left field line. Assuming Alvarez heads to the Palm Beach Cardinals in the pitcher-friendly FSL, that hit tool will be to his advantage.
Like many young hitters he is aggressive and doesn’t walk much but his whiff rate is comfortably low and he usually makes hard contact.
Coming in to 2016, Alvarez had struck out 88 times and walked just 48 over his first 579 plate appearances of his career. As John said, the strikeout rate wasn’t alarming — sitting at 15.2 percent — but he didn’t offset it too much by drawing walks either. Could you imagine what someone with his speed tool could do with more walks?
Imagine no more. While Alvarez did see a spike in his strikeout rate over his first full season, it was by no means horrific, as he jumped to a 19.2 percent rate. His walk rate improved as well, breaking the double-digit percentile mark at 10.6. His 96-to-53 strikeout-to-walk rate was also impressive, and shows that the 21 year old is making improvements when he can actually stay on the field.
He also draws good reviews for his glovework at second base, although the metrics (such as they are) are mediocre at present.
Well, the metrics here didn’t improve too much unfortunately. Unlike past seasons, he played every game at second base for Peoria, and in doing so, he committed 27 errors in 505 total chances. We know he has the range with his speed, the question is whether he knows how to use it.
Conclusion: Alvarez woke up!
Alvarez will no longer be under the radar, as his first full season was an overwhelming success. While his slash line (.323/.404/.476) was surely influenced by a .400 BABIP, his 159 wRC+ and .404 wOBA certainly can’t be denied.
Is Alvarez there yet? No, and he will likely still be in the lower third of the Cardinals Top 30 prospects heading into 2017. Assuming the injury history is behind him, Alvarez will be an intriguing prospect to keep tabs on in 2017.