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 Minor League News & Autograph Blog Home

Top Prospect Alert - Tony Alvarez

By Schuyler Dombroske

DOB: 5/10/79, Age: 23, Bats/Throws: R/R, Height: 6’1’’, Weight: 202. Acquired: Pirates - Signed out of Venezuela on 9/27/95. 2001 Stats: (High-A - Lynchburg) .344 AVG, 93 AB, 4 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 7 SB, 7 BB, 11 K, .390 OBP, .452 SLG; (AA - Altoona) .319 AVG, 254 AB, 16 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 17 SB, 9 BB, 30 K, .342 OBP, .461 SLG. 2002 Stats: (AA - Altoona) .313 AVG, 332 AB, 29 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 23 SB, 23 BB, 53 K, .367 OBP, .461 SLG.
    If Tony Alvarez were in a different organization, we might sit here and hypothesize about his chances of learning some plate discipline and becoming an offensive force in a major league outfield in the near future. In reality, Alvarez is a Pirate, and as such, has much less hope of improving as a hitter during the rest of his formative years. Alvarez is a strong, fast outfielder from Venezuela, is in his second season at Double-A Altoona, and has the ability to play either left or center field. In his fourth professional season, all of them spent in short-season ball, Alvarez started putting it together with an MVP season for Williamsport. He followed that up with a halfway decent season in the SAL, and now has started to move up the ladder and maintain his prior successes. Tony is still a bit old for AA at 23, but is still raw enough to justify his surroundings. Alvarez’s major weakness has always been his strike zone judgment. In 7 seasons, he has only had one in which he walked more than once every 10 at bats. He has improved a bit this year, but not so much so that you would say that his problem is solved. On the bright side, he doesn’t strike out as much as a lot of players with poor strike zone judgment. That trait has helped him to hit better than .300 at four of his last five stops, including both tries at AA. I don’t think he will be able to continue that at the major league level, but he won’t be a .220 hitter either. He has power potential, as evidenced by his 29 doubles in little more than half a season in 2002, but has not hit the ball over the fence with any regularity thus far. I’ve seen 30/30 bandied about regarding Alvarez, but I see 20/20 being a much more realistic ceiling for him. He has average to slightly better speed, but plays like he is a blazer. Baserunning mistakes on the Jorge Posada scale are commonplace for him, and he gets caught stealing far too much to make the bags that he steals worthwhile on the whole. He might steal 30 bases a year, but he’ll be caught 20 times. Following the recurring Tony Alvarez theme, if he could be a little more patient, he could steal 20 bases a year and have them be an asset to the team. On defense, Alvarez can play anywhere in the outfield, and even third, second, or first in a pinch, but he is not really much better than average at any of them. His best bet would be in left field, where he would be capable of having an average arm and above average range. He might prove to be a solid defensive left fielder in time.
    The Pirates have an interesting organization right now. They are not as bad as many people think, as they have potential or actual superstars in Ramirez, Giles, Benson, and Kip Wells. On the farm, House, Bradley, and Van Benschoten are high ceiling prospects. This is much more than an organization like the Tigers can say. The main problem that I see with the Pirates is that their players never seem to get better with age. Players with potential remain players with potential forever. It even looked like Aramis Ramirez would stagnate for quite some time, and he was as close to a sure thing as there is as a third base prospect. A new coaching staff would likely do wonders for their organization, and help bring them back toward the glory years of the Jim Leyland era. Chad Hermansen is a classic example of a player who would benefit from some better instruction. Tony Alvarez is another example, being one of those players that seems to be taking baby steps when he needs to move faster. At 23, he ought to be close to making an impact with the Pirates, but I think he is still two years away, which does not make him an impact prospect. He probably will see time in Pittsburgh next year in reality, but his (lack of) strike zone judgment will hamper his performance at that level. Unless he makes some major strides, I see him as a fourth outfielder for most of his career, some occasional starting jobs, and just enough talent to keep him in the market for a job. A comparison to Gerald Williams seems extremely appropriate. 


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