What a difference a year makes in fantasy baseball. In 2020 drafts, Yordan Alvarez went as early as the late-second or early-third round in 15-team formats on the heels of a tremendous debut with Houston. Alvarez launched 28 home runs in only 89 contests over 378 plate appearances with a robust .312/.410/.654 slash line. He also launched 22 home runs at Triple-A prior to his promotion and if one combines his RBI for the year, Alvarez knocked in 149 between the two levels.
Then the delays. Spring training, a shutdown due to a pandemic, summer training during which Alvarez lost time to COVID which lingered into the regular season along with sore knees. All told, he appeared in two games during the truncated 60-game schedule. Less than optimal. It's tough to ignore the knees, which Alvarez underwent surgery to correct in the off-season. However, it may be a mistake to ignore his palpable power with reports of a "deadened” baseball being used in 2021.
According to Statcast, Alvarez recorded 228 batted ball events in 2019 with 38 barrels (16.7 percent), a 92.4 MPH average exit velocity and 49.6 hard hit percentage. Noting Statcast uses quality of contact within its expected statistics, Alvarez notched a .292 expected batting average (xBA), .602 expected slugging (xSLG) and .413 expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA). Targeting players who make the most of their contact may be more important than ever if MLB really uses an altered ball. Alvarez racked up a .522 expected weighted on-base average on contact (xwOBAcon) which resided well over the league average of .376, impressive to say the least.
Normally, a view of the player's zone profile provides insight on his expected numbers, but this illustration displays how well Alvarez commanded the strike zone in terms of batted ball events:
Alvarez will swing and miss, his 25.1 strikeout percentage in 2019 cannot be ignored, but he owned an 83 percent zone contact rate. His swing percentage finished at 43.2 percent but his whiff rate of 24.8 sits near the league average. A key to his power carrying over, Alvarez produced fly balls at a 30.7 percent clip, almost nine points higher on average than his peers. He also generated a 27.6 line drive rate and 16.7 barrel percentage, more than six points better than league average. With easy power to all fields, when Alvarez pulled a ball in the air, very good things happened as evidenced in his spray chart:
One can see this chart and figure Alvarez may see more shifts in 2021 which could affect his batting average and it's a fair assessment. His slice chart below reflects batted balls with a distance of 200 feet or less:
Two things, Alvarez can hit the ball well up the middle and his home park, Minute Maid, plays short to left field. Half of Alvarez's home runs tracked on Statcast rate as no-doubters, out of any major league park. Alvarez registered over 58 percent of his batted balls in the air (fly balls and line drives) which a shift cannot account for. Plus, his percentile ranks from 2019 cannot be ignored:
xwOBA - 97th percentile
xBA - 90th percentile
xSLG - 98th percentile
Barrel percentage - 98th percentile
Exit Velocity - 94th percentile
Hard hit rate - 94th percentile
Walk percentage - 94th percentile
It's easy to forget Alvarez only turns 24 in June. He also missed 23 days due to COVID from July 23rd to August 14th, returning for two games then missing the rest of 2020. Like many of us, Alvarez hopes to turn the page and start fresh in 2021. In 2019, Alvarez hit fourth in the lineup in 33 games and fifth in 47 contests. He should be firmly entrenched in the heart of the batting order with George Springer leaving town. With this in mind, here are his projection sets from various sites:
If Alvarez looks healthy in the spring and his knees hold up, he could hit 35-plus home runs this season. Planning on some erosion in his slash lines makes sense, but if he hits .280 or higher with power, he's well worth the reduced price in his draft capital due to a lost season. Pay for the BAT X projection and profit even further if Alvarez hits 40 or more home runs. Even with a different baseball in play, his power can overcome the elements if he keeps raking. Take advantage of his volatile market if your risk averse.
THE BAT X and THE BAT courtesy of Derek Carty
ATC courtesy of Ariel Cohen
ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborsk