50 games into his major league career, Yordan Alvarez has a 183 wRC+ and has been worth 2.3 WAR. Let’s take a look at what we might be able to reasonably expect from the 22-year-old slugger moving forward. Here is how Alvarez compares to the rest of the league:
|Barrel %||Average Exit Velocity||Hard Hit %||xwOBA||BB%|
|Yordan Alvarez||17.5%||92.4 mph||48.9%||.420||12.1%|
|League Average||6.3%||87.5 mph||34.4%||.318||8.3%|
When you hit the ball hard and at a good launch angle often, and draw walks often, good things generally happen in the batter’s box. This has been true for Alvarez thus far. According to Statcast’s Erdős number calculations, among the most similar hitters to Alvarez this year are Christian Yelich, Pete Alonso, and Jorge Soler.
Of course, most of the hitters on the major league leaderboards are several years older than Alvarez. At just 22-years-old, he is currently sixth in the major leagues in barrels per plate appearance, behind such hitters as Mike Trout and Joey Gallo, and ahead of hitters like Yelich and Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger. In barrels per batted ball event, he is ninth. No one above him on either list is his age. Alvarez’s xwOBA (.420) is sixth in baseball and also better than two other young bat-first prospects with above average batted ball profiles. Juan Soto, last year’s offensive wunderkind, currently sits at .410, while Keston Hiura is at .365. Soto, who is younger than Alvarez, doesn’t hit the ball quite as hard or do so as often as Alvarez, but he draws more walks. Hiura, who about 10 months older, hits the ball harder more often, but also draws fewer walks and swings and misses more.
Coming into the 2019 season, Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel ranked Alvarez the seventh best prospect in a loaded Houston system. As Dan Szymborski noted, this was less a knock on Alvarez and more a nod to the depth of the Astros’ minor league talent, many of whom were performing in the upper levels of the minor leagues and possessed intriguing profiles and upside. Eric and Kiley noted that Alvarez’s massive frame and 65-grade raw power stood out, and that he was likely nearly big league ready, putting a 50 FV grade on him overall. His defensive profile – a first baseman that is likely a DH in time – limited his upside. At least in the short-term, it looks as though Alvarez might be better than league sources indicated coming into the season.
Alvarez’s batted ball data puts him in the upper tiers of major leaguers in a variety of ways. In the previously noted categories of barrels per plate appearance, he is in the 98th percentile. In barrels per batted ball event, he’s in the 98th percentile. In average exit velocity, he’s in the 95th percentile. In a season when offensive performance is up league-wide, Alvarez’s counting stats and rate stats have not only been historically good amongst rookies, but his quality of contact is among the league’s best currently.
Alvarez’s defensive value will limit his upside moving forward, and some regression can likely be expected. His 30.3% chase rate is above the league average of 28.2%. That .375 BABIP is partially driven by above average BABIPs on all types of batted balls.
|Overal BABIP||BABIP on groundballs||BABIP on line drives||BABIP on flyballs|
Still, there is a chance that Alvarez continues to be one of the best hitters in the game for the foreseeable future. Alvarez is unlikely to maintain a 183 wRC+ moving forward, but the early returns of his batted ball statistics are intriguing. He’s shown above average plate discipline with above average game power and an above average ability to square the ball up consistently, all of which are traits that are shared with only a select group of players who are several years older and have more big league experience than him.
Sources have indicated that Alvarez’s minor league batted ball data is in some ways even more impressive than what he’s done in the big leagues thus far, lending greater confidence to the sustainability of this early performance. Others have noted that his profile is that of an early-peaking/early-aging type player, to the extent that regression may happen sooner for him than others. But even if his batted ball profile regresses like some sources predict, there is enough value in his offensive profile to project him to continue to be, at least in the short term, in the upper tier of major league hitters.
Josh Herzenberg has served as an area scout and a minor league coach for the Dodgers. He can be found on Twitter @JoshHerzenberg.