The Apparent Mechanical Changes Fueling Yordan Alvarez’s Breakout Campaign

To put it simply, Houston Astros minor league prospect Yordan Alvarez has been the Cody Bellinger of the minor leagues. Alvarez leads all minor hitters (minimum 100 PA) with a .411 batting average, 55 runs batted in, 1.378 OPS, .473 ISO, and a .543 wOBP (all according to FanGraphs Minor League Leaderboards). He has ten more long balls at AAA this season compared to last year in 19 fewer plate appearances. Remarkably, more than half of his hits have gone for extra bases (18 dingers and 15 2Bs; 60 hits overall). 

Alvarez has exhibited a patient approach at the plate, walking a robust 13.5% of the time, and strikeouts have proven to be less of an issue in 2019…

  • 2018: 23.7% K rate in 190 AA plate appearances; 24.9% K rate in 189 AAA plate appearances
  • 2019: 19.4% K rate in 170 AAA plate appearances

He’s been a line drive machine (30.9%, which is the 8th highest frequency in the minors), and pitchers have had a really tough time getting Alvarez to pop up (2.8%, 10th lowest percentage of infield fly balls in the minors). Alvarez also hits the ball to all fields, as conveyed below…

  • Pull% (all stats per FanGraphs unless otherwise noted): 28.8
  • Cent%: 33.3
  • Opp%: 37.8
Spray Chart courtesy of Baseball Savant

As impressive as Alvarez’s numbers are, it is important that we take into consideration the other factors at play here. One being the fact that the league in which Alvarez plays in (the Pacific Coast League) is notorious for inflating/boosting hitter performance because the ball flat-out soars in the West Coast. Additionally, the same baseballs used in the MLB are being used in AAA, so there is much conversation and evidence backing up the notion of juiced baseballs. Therefore, we will compare Alvarez’s stats to the average hitter (minimum 100 PA once again) in the Pacific Coast League…

Yordan AlvarezLeague Average (median) Hitter% above average

As illustrated in the table above, Alvarez is quite frankly on another planet right now.

I will now attempt to identify some mechanical changes that he has made which have transformed into the hitter he is today. 

Here’s a video of a long home run he hit the other day (May 19th) off of southpaw Brady Feigl

Pre-Pitch Stance on that pitch
You can see that Alvarez has his front foot lifted just as the pitcher is about to release the ball.
The ball has been released at this point and it is merely a matter of milliseconds before Alvarez swings.
Follow-through on that swing 

Let’s compare that refined approach to the one he had in 2018…

At this point, the pitch has already been released, and Alvarez is on the brink of swinging.

Some observations:

  • Alvarez is holding his bat and elbow up much higher in 2019 before he swings, which is likely allowing him to tap into more of his power
  • Alvarez is starting his leg kick earlier in 2019, which has seemingly improved his timing
  • This season, it appears Alvarez is standing more upright at the dish, and his stance is better balanced

I honestly anticipate that Alvarez will be called up shortly (presumably sometime in the coming weeks), especially when one considers some of the unspectacular players he’d be competing with for playing time…

  • Yordan Alvarez (OF/1B) projections (according to FanGraphs Depth Charts): 179 PA, .263 AVG, .332 OBP, .478 SLG, and 9 HR
  • Yuli Gurriel stats so far this season: 179 PA, .269 AVG, .313 OBP, .419 SLG, and 3 HR
  • Tyler White stats so far this season: 97 PA, .226 AVG, .320 OBP, .286 SLG, and 0 HR

When do you think Alvarez will be called upon to the majors? What do you expect to see from him? Comment below!

Featured Photo: Astros Future

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