Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Prospect Report: CF Dariel Alvarez

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Signed for $800,000 in July of 2013, CF Dariel Alvarez is the second Cuban OF to join the Orioles organization in recent years, following OF Henry Urrutia. The bonus money offered to Alvarez surprised some scouts involved in the international player market, as Baseball America’s Ben Badler  told MASN’s Steve Melewski that Urrutia is clearly far, far ahead of Alvarez" So how does he look now?
Background:
Born: 11/07/1988
Place: Camaguey, Cuba
HT/WT: 6’2”, 180lbs
B/T: R/R
Dariel came to the in 2013 as an under the radar prospect playing for the Camaguey team in the Cuban National Series (CNS) league, where he spent his age 17-22 seasons playing multiple positions in the OF and some time spent as a pitcher. Some MLB scouts viewed his lively arm to be better suited for the mound but the Orioles were insistent he had the tools to play the OF. Playing mainly RF in Cuba, the Orioles have moved him to CF full-time in Bowie, where they hope to see if he can develop his reads off the bat and his routes to the ball and if his hitting can develop to the point that he has the power necessary to progress in the higher levels of the minor leagues
Alvarez split time between three levels of the Orioles system last year (Rk, A+, AA), adjusting well to the American game, OPSing .943 and hitting 4 HR (totaling 9 XBH) in 83 PAs over 22 games played. This year, Alvarez has only improved, slashing .349/.364/.568. Alvarez has flashed some power as well, with 7 HR through tonight’s action, which included a solidly hit opposite field home run tonight against Erie.
So far Dariel shows minimal handedness splits, hitting RHPs a little better than LHPs, and generally provides a consistent approach against opposing pitchers this year. Seen primarily as a gap hitter with some power potential (though still less than many see in Urrutia), Alvarez has noticeably been better at picking out pitches to drive, leading to the numbers through the first 40+ games in the AA campaign.
Scouting Report:
Alvarez has a frame similar to current Orioles CF Adam Jones, who came up as a SS in Seattle’s system. Good height with long arms and broad shoulders seem to indicate that with his continued adjustment to the US, he could continue to add additional muscle to his frame. At 25, he in that gray area as a prospect/late bloomer but it appears that physically he’s healthy and has the body required to advance.
Offense:
Seen as having an uppercut in his swing, Alvarez as clearly worked on calming it down to the point that it is less noticeable. His swing is aggressive and at its worst can look a little long, though generally he attacks balls up and out over the plate. Spray charts would probably see the largest concentration of balls hit out in between the power alleys. Power comes from strong front leg plant and good hip rotation. Of the three home runs I’ve seen him hit in person, all have gone to the right side of the OF. If he doesn’t develop a killer instinct on inside pitches, will likely see power decrease as he gets to higher levels of competition. Of course, the one video available on MiLB.com shows him pulling a middle-in fastball to LF for a home run, but generally he is not what I would call a pull hitter.
Defense:
Alvarez compares pretty well to Jones from a skills standpoint, possessing an absolute cannon for an arm, probably the best in the Orioles system at the moment. His routes have improved from even the beginning of the year, and he’s attacking balls in the gap well and asserting himself well on balls that are 50/50. Speed is good enough to get the job done, has a nice first step and his growing reputation for throwing out base runners has helped dissuade opposing baserunners from being greedy on balls hit his way.
Baserunning:
Alvarez is quick but not a burner. Balls that should be extra bases generally are and he is aware on the basepaths. Not much of a stolen base threat.
Overall:
Hard to say where he will be in the next three years but he will need to keep up this performance to force the Orioles hand. While not “old” he is at age-level for his league and he likely will not develop new talents and the Orioles should continue polishing his current strengths and keeping him from falling into bad habits with his areas of weakness. 
Grades (all Future):
Hit - 50
Pwr - 45
Run - 45
Fld/Arm - 65
Alvarez is likely destined for a 4th OF role but could very well see himself playing in RF as a starter (an excellent spot to showcase his arm) in the near future, particularly with the $17.5 million option owed to Nick Markakis likely to be declined and OF/DH Neslon Cruz possibly departing for a long-term contract at the conclusion of the year.