Should the Pittsburgh Pirates Take a Flier on Yadier Alvarez?

(Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates are looking to infuse as much young talent as possible into their organization.  Could they pick up this former top prospect?

One thing that has been made clear by the Pittsburgh Pirates new front office is that they need to bring in more talent to the overall organization.  A lot of the Pittsburgh Pirates fans blame the failures of the previous regime at drafting and developing prospects.  In turn, fans believe this is one of the main reasons (other than spending) for the team’s current state.   While the farm system is already back on the upswing, Ben Cherington needs to continue to add upside talent consistently.

There is a former top prospect available who the Pittsburgh Pirates could have a chance to add.  Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Dodgers designated Cuban pitching prospect Yadier Alvarez for assignment.  The Dodgers signed Alvarez back during the 2015-2016 International signing period to a huge bonus worth $16,000,000 (this was before the bonus restrictions).

By 2017, Alvarez ranked as a top 50 prospect in baseball.  This was mainly because of his 6’3” frame and his upper 90s fastball and a plus slider.  Furthermore, he was throwing that hard at just 20 years of age.  There is a lot to like about a 20-year-old prospect with a power fastball and a plus slider.  However, like most young, hard throwers, Alvarez had question marks about his command.

Those question marks never went away and have plagued him most of his professional career.  As he has moved up the minor league latter his lack of control has become more and more exposed. Overall he has pitched in 56 minor league games, making up 210.2 innings.  The strikeout stuff has been there as he has struckout 246 hitters but that has come with 119 walks, which has led him to have a career ERA over 4.00.

Alvarez only made two appearances last year before missing the season with an injury.  He then failed to show up to meetings which put him on the restricted list and out for the remainder of the season.  Apparently, he was having some off-the-field issues but got some help in the offseason to get him mentally headed back in the right direction.  He is just 23 years of age and defected from Cuba, so maybe it is just taking him some time to mature in a new country.

Why would the Pittsburgh Pirates be interested in this hard-throwing right-hander?  Well, first and foremost he would not cost them anything other than a 40 man roster spot.  The Dodgers designated Alvarez for assignment, meaning they removed him from their 40-man roster.  He will now go through waivers and the Pittsburgh Pirates have the second waiver priority. The Bucs 40 man is full but the team could DFA Sam Howard or Yacksel Rios to make room for him.

Secondly, he obviously has tremendous talent.  His fastball has the projectability to reach triple digits and has a potential wipeout slider.  The Los Angeles Dodgers used Alvarez as a starter for most of his minor league career, with a couple of relief appearances here or there for development purposes.  With a high 90s fastball, a good slider, and command issues, Alvarez might be better served to transition to the bullpen full time.  The Bucs currently have a lot of young power arms like Nick Burdi, Blake Cederlind, and Nick Mears, so adding Alvarez would give them another potential backend of the bullpen option.

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Yadier Alvarez has had a bit of a rocky career since signing.  He had to defect from Cuba, got paid a large sum of money right off the bat and likely had a tough time making that kind of transition at such a young age.  He also battled some injury issues and apparently some other off-field issues.  The arm talent is undeniable and the Pittsburgh Pirates need to look at all avenues to find as much talent as possible.  Alvarez would fit the bill as an upside bullpen arm and at just 23 years of age, it would give the team plenty of time to get him back on a Major League track.