Most Astro fans know the drill or at least think they do. The Astros traded reliever Josh Fields to the Dodgers for young Cuban Yordan Alvarez in 2016. Alvarez was 19 years old and had not yet played for the Dodgers organization after starting his career with 74 games over two seasons in Cuba. They must have liked him a lot as they signed him to a $2 million bonus, but the Astros were able to pry him out of the Blue Men’s hands. Alvarez has become a super star before he even played one major league game (and boy he looked like a potential super star in his one game) and all Fields ever did was give up back to back extra inning homers to Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa in the unbelievable Game 2 of the 2017 World Series.
To be fair to Fields, he actually pitched quite well for the Dodgers, going 8-2 with a fine 2.61 ERA and 1.040 WHIP over 2-1/2 seasons in LA. But if Alvarez becomes what folks think he may become, Fields will be forever linked with Larry Andersen (a solid reliever traded for Jeff Bagwell back in 1990) as “those” guys, players traded for important or even transcendent pieces.
So, what about this hitting wizard named Yordan Alvarez? Well, obviously it will take more than one big swing against Dylan Bundy to ultimately judge the young man, but he is off to a start that most of the recent Astro prospects brought up would kill for. He was 1 for 3 including his two-run homer that gave the Astros the lead they never relinquished and threw a walk in on top of that. How did other folks start out?
- Alex Bregman was the poster boy for patience with prospects. He got his first hit in his 19th at bat and his 1st HR (also a 2 run homer) in his 78th at bat back in 2016. Going into his 20th game when he finally hit the homer he had a terrible slash line .165 BA / .235 OBP/ .469 OPS. By the end of his first partial season, he had a respectable slash of .264 /.313/ .791.
- George Springer was only a tad better than Bregman. George did get a hit in his first game and in fact had a 5 game hitting streak to start his career in 2014. Then he went cold as he dropped to a slash of .170 BA / .264 OBP/ .477 OPS. Like Bregman he got his first home run in his 20th game and his 78th at bat. Before an injury cut his season short he totaled 20 HRs and 51 RBIs in only 78 games.
- Jose Altuve also had a hit in his first game and posted a quick out of the gate 7 game hitting streak after jumping all the way from AA back in 2011. He didn’t get his first home run until his 28th game and 106th at bat and it did not leave the ballpark as he whacked an inside the park homer at MMP. It would be 10 more games before he hit one that left the park against ……future teammate Charlie Morton. In his first time in the majors he would hit for good average (.276) but his on-base was a nasty (.297).
- Correa would not be ribbing you (see what I did there) if he said he had the most successful debut of the Astros great young core. He had a hit in his first game, a home run the next day and never looked back on his way to the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year award. He finished the season with a robust .279 BA/ .345 OBP/ .857 OPS slash and 22 HRs and 68 RBIs.
- Kyle Tucker was called up in 2018 and hit like an overmatched 21 year old. He earned his first hit in his first game, but is still waiting on his first MLB home run. He was sent back down with an anemic slash line of .141 BA / .236 OBP / .439 OPS
Mr. Alvarez has been on a quick track to reach the majors. His norm has been to hit extremely well at a level and then to come down a bit upon promotion. This year he has been the best hitter in the minors before his call-up with video game numbers .343 BA / .443 OBP / 1.184 OPS with a breathtaking 50 runs scored, 23 HRs and 71 RBIs in only 56 games.
Unlike Tucker who looked like a taller, skinnier Terry Puhl when he came up – Yordan Alvarez looks the part of an MLB power hitter or the newest Paul Bunyan. Like Bunyan the question is can he live up to the expectations that came with him from the minors and only intensified when he hit that 415+ ft laser beam to the gas pump in left centerfield on Sunday? We shall see, but it should be fun finding out.