Despite the fact that his bonus clocks in at $800 thousand, which is $21,500 more than fellow Cuban Henry Urrutia's, Alvarez is widely regarded as an inferior talent. That's not to say he has nothing to offer the Orioles, though.
In fact, Alvarez is so talented that several teams, including the Orioles, considered signing him and converting him into a pitcher.
Clearly, then, his best tool is his arm.
In the field, he resembles Urrutia in that both players lack the grace and quickness to be anything more than a average outfielders. Bleacher Report's own Mike Rosenbaum likes Alvarez to settle in right field, where the O's currently have Gold Glove winner Nick Markakis.
At the plate, Alvarez is a mixed bag.
He hit .354/.371/.521 in a brief run in La Liga Invernal Veracruzana (Mexico) last year, and he posted a .363/.404/.613 in his final season in the Cuban League. He also swatted 20 homers in 344 at-bats that year.
While that kind of production from a player just coming into his prime should signify a star on the rise, Rosenbaum notes that Alvarez's swing "has a lot of moving parts and takes considerable effort to initiate." Baseball America puts it more bluntly, referencing several scouts who note that "he struggles against live pitching."
Clearly, Alvarez doesn't offer the same offensive upside as a Yasiel Puig or a Yoenis Cespedes, but the real question is: Will he hit enough to be as valuable as Urrutia, who was considered a notch below the top Cuban players in the game today?
Furthermore, if he moves as quickly through the minor leagues as Urrutia, will the O's have room for both players? After all, Baltimore's roster already includes three Gold Glove winners in the outfield—two of whom were given lucrative contract extensions in the past four years.
Unfortunately, only time will reveal the answers to these questions. For now, the only one we can answer with any certainty is where Alvarez ranks among the Orioles' top prospects.
His offensive upside—despite question marks about his swing and how much power he'll hit for as a major leaguer—and his arm strength make him an easy pick for the top 10, especially considering the lack of elite prospect talent in the Baltimore system. His experience against good competition in the Cuban League also works in his favor.
Here's a quick rundown of where Alvarez will likely fall among the O's top 10 prospects, excluding players currently on the big league roster such as Urrutia or LHP T.J. McFarland.
1. Dylan Bundy, RHP
Yes, Bundy is injured and won't pitch again until mid-2014 at the earliest, but there's no question he's the most talented prospect in the organization. When he's on, he's one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Very few high school players could reach the major leagues in their first professional season, but that's exactly what Bundy did.
2. Kevin Gausman, RHP
Like Bundy, Gausman dominated in the minors, posting a 76/9 K/BB ratio in 16 outings. The results weren't as pretty in the majors, where he was prematurely promoted earlier this summer. He's made his last two appearances for Triple-A Norfolk and could find his way back into the fold by the time rosters expand in September.
3. Jonathan Schoop, 2B/SS/3B
Working his way back from a stress fracture in his back, Schoop has hit .436 with five homers and 17 RBI in 11 rehab games. He went 4-for-5 with two homers and seven RBI last night for Aberdeen. He should join the Norfolk roster this weekend, and he hopes to recapture the momentum he had before being shelved earlier this spring.
4. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
Rodriguez has grown from a lanky, soft-tossing lefty into a low-to-mid-90s ground-ball machine in just a few years, and he's already arrived at Double-A as a 20-year-old. He's more than held his own in four starts with the Baysox, striking out a batter an inning and tossing a six-inning complete game. For the season, he's 7-6 with a 3.19 ERA and 88/37 K/BB in 107.1 innings.
5. Hunter Harvey, RHP
Harvey was the O's first-round pick in this year's draft, and thanks to the early signing deadline, he's already taken the mound for the organization's Gulf Coast League affiliate. Incredibly polished for a high schooler, Harvey throws in the mid-90s and has potential in both a curveball and changeup. He likely won't pitch much this year, but he could start 2014 at Low-A Delmarva.
6. Josh Hader, LHP
To call the former 19th-round-pick a surprise would be the understatement of the century. That's how good Hader has been. He's seen a significant uptick in his velocity since his senior year of high school, and he's been able to dominate Low-A hitters in his first full-season, holding them to a .201 average. He's been incredibly hard to take deep (only four HR allowed in 81.1 IP) and has posted a 2.55 ERA, one of the lowest marks in the South Atlantic League.
7. L.J. Hoes, OF
Hoes has done nothing but hit (.303/.394/.403) and walk (92/96 BB/K) since arriving at Triple-A Norfolk midway through last season. In 180 games, he's also rapped 39 doubles, driven in 78 runs and scored 116 of his own. He has become the fixture in the Tides lineup. Unfortunately, there's no room for him on the big league roster, leading to some questions about whether or not he has a future in this organization.
8. Dariel Alvarez, OF
Alvarez was a proven hitter at the top level of the Cuban League and was just starting to come into some power when he defected. He showed the same skills with the bat last year in Mexico, and the O's hope that translates into success in the States. Aside from having a strong arm, he's not much of an asset defensively, so his bat will be key to his big league ascension.
9. Josh Hart, OF
The O's second pick in this year's draft, Hart is a prototypical leadoff hitter who has incredible speed. He should be an asset on defense and has a shot for three or four other tools. He's shown considerable ability in his limited time with the GCL squad, posting a .351 on-base percentage, seven RBI and nine steals (in 10 attempts) in just 17 games.
10. Adrian Marin, SS
With a strong July (.338/.373/.408), Marin has brought plenty of attention his way. Like Hart, he's a potential five-tool player, although he hasn't shown much power (two home runs in 305 AB) or speed (eight stolen bases) yet. Like any young shortstop, his fielding needs some polishing, but with more experience, Marin could develop into a solid everyday shortstop.