Nov 5, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; The Houston Astros celebrate as left fielder Yordan Alvarez (44) rounds the bases after hitting a three run home run against the Philadelphia Phillies during the sixth inning in game six of the 2022 World Series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Astros Player of the Day: Yordan Alvarez
Welcome to Gallery Sports’ Houston Astros Spring Training player spotlight: Astros Player of the Day. We will look at a different Astros player each day throughout the spring.
Today’s Astros Player of the Day is left fielder/designated hitter Yordan Alvarez.
In a day that will go down in infamy for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Houston Astros made what was considered a nondescript deadline deal with Los Angeles at the time. At the 2016 trade deadline, they sent reliever Josh Fields and his 6.89 ERA over 15 games with Houston that season to the Dodgers for a 19-year-old Cuban 1B/OF prospect that had yet to play in the United States.
Alvarez then annihilated minor league pitching at every level, earning a call-up to Houston midway through the 2019 season, and promptly won American League Rookie of the Year unanimously despite playing only 87 games. In those 87 games, Yordan batted .313/.412/.655 with an Astros rookie record 27 home runs and 78 RBIs. His .655 Slugging percentage is the highest mark for a qualified rookie in AL history.
After COVID-19 and arthroscopic surgery on both knees limited him to only two games in the 2020 pandemic-shortened season, Alvarez returned to blast 33 HRs and drive in 104 runs in 2021, then returned to his pre-injury form in 2022 when he finished third in the AL MVP vote.
Despite a monthlong struggle with sore hands in August that limited him to a .234 average and only one home run that entire month, he finished the season red-hot (. 355 AVG, 1.118 OPS, 6 HRs) and continued to rake in the postseason. For the season, Yordan finished with a .306 AVG, .406 OBP, 1.019 OPS, and 37 HRs.
Yordan firmly established himself as the Astros’ top hitter, and manager Dusty Baker permanently moved him into the three-hole in the lineup.
Alvarez has also made great strides as a defender. Early in his career in Houston, he was considered a lumbering defender with very limited range. His defensive runs saved above average went from a -8 in 2021 to a +13 in 2022. Alvarez has displayed a high velocity, highly accurate arm in left field and has shown slightly better range as well.
Alvarez, who will turn 26 on June 27, appears to be a perennial MVP candidate with a swing that generates tremendous power with ease. His ability to hit left-handed pitching (. 321 AVG, .998 OPS), as well as right-handed pitching (. 299 AVG, 1.030 OPS), makes him a unicorn among elite left-handed power bats. He hits for average, power, draws walks, and his 106 strikeouts for a hitter with his power profile is a relatively low number.
Alvarez has been dealing with more soreness in his hand in spring training, and the Astros have been monitoring his workload as they look to have him ready for Opening Day. Alvarez could be limited early in the season to designated hitter duties while he works to overcome the hand soreness, but when healthy could see about 50% of his playing time in left field. At this stage in their respective careers, Alvarez is a better fielder than Michael Brantley, with whom he is expected to share LF/DH duties when both are fully healthy this season.
Alvarez is worth the price of admission every time he plays. He is a top 5 hitter as long as he is healthy, and is the most irreplaceable hitter in the lineup.