Let the sweepstakes for Dariel Alvarez begin.
According to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, the 24-year-old Cuban defector has been cleared to sign with a major league team. Technically, Alvarez was given the green light in December but is just now hitting the open market after changing agents.
On Wednesday, Alvarez impressed during an open showcase in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with representatives from the Dodgers, Rangers, Red Sox, Royals, Mariners, Diamondbacks, Padres and Yankees in attendance, according to Sanchez.
Even though there is significantly less known about Alvarez compared to hype when Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig or Jorge Soler hit the open market, the level of interest from so many organizations suggests he may be the next impact Cuban hitter in the major leagues.
Alvarez’s professional career began as a 19-year-old in Cuba playing in the Serie Nacional de Beisbol. The outfielder made developmental strides in each of his five seasons in the league, with 2011 marking his most successful campaign.
After defecting last summer and taking residency in Mexico, Alvarez spent the 2012 season playing in La Liga Invernal Veracruzana and batted .354/.371/.521 with two home runs in 152 at-bats.
While his numbers from the 2011 and 2012 seasons may suggest a future star, Alvarez doesn’t appear to be a sure-fire, impact player in the major leagues.
At 6’2”, 190 pounds, the 24-year-old is capable of playing all three outfield positions—or at least that was the case while playing on the international circuit.
In reality, Alvarez is merely an average runner who lacks the quickness and closing speed to handle center field at the major league level. While his speed would seemingly be a cleaner fit at either corner position, his above-average strength profiles favorably in right field.
At the plate, the right-handed hitter showcases quick wrists and above-average bat speed, and appears to have a sense of barrel control through the zone. However, based on the limited amount of video of available, it appears that Alvarez’s swing also has a lot of moving parts and takes considerable effort to initiate.
Set up with his hands high at the top of the zone, Alvarez employs a deep and deliberate load with a high leg kick and long stride. Hitters who are successful with a swing of that nature tend to rely on excessive physical strength and impeccable timing with their front foot—neither of which is overly apparent with Alvarez.
However, he does do a nice job of staying through the baseball and generating extension after contact with a high, two-handed finish.
Once he signs, Alvarez will presumably be forced to modify his swing. The starting point and unnecessary movement of his hands, as well as the length of his swing to the point of contact, will make it difficult to barrel advanced velocity on the inner half. Therefore, he'd likely be better off starting with his hands more toward his back shoulder rather than in the center of his stance.
Similarly, his elongated stride causes a dip in eye level and may hinder his recognition of quality secondary offerings.
With a lack of standout tools and average defensive profile in the outfield, Alvarez’s impact in the major leagues will be tied to the development of his bat. Although his year-to-year improvement in the Serie Nacional shouldn’t be disregarded, it’s important to keep his performance in the context of an older player performing in a significantly weaker league (compared to the major leagues).
However, based on the sheer number of teams that showed up to watch the 24-year-old on Wednesday, it’s obvious that many believe the bat will translate at the major league level. And even though he lacks the athleticism and tools of an All-Star-caliber outfielder such as Cespedes or Puig, Alvarez should hit enough to serve as an everyday right fielder for his future team.