2013 Angels Prospects Countdown #8: R.J. Alvarez

The MWAH prospect countdown marches on with their top pick in the 2012 draft.

R.J. Alvarez
Position:  Relief Pitcher  Highest Level: Low-A
Throws: Right  Height: 6'1" Weight: 180 lbs.
Age: 21  Born: 6/8/91

2012 Season Stats
Low-A: 27.1 IP, 3-2, 0 SV, 3.29 ERA, 22 H, 11 BB, 2 HR, 38 SO, 1.00 GO/AO, 3.13 FIP, .303 BABIP

Fastball – A.  I reserve “A” grades for players whose specific tool is not only Major League ready, but would also be among the better assets in the Major Leagues.  Alvarez’s fastball sits at 95-96 and touches 97 rather frequently.  The ball also has a considerable amount of movement, making it all the more dangerous of a pitch.     

Off-speed Pitches – A-.  Alvarez has a “plus” slider that spins fast and cuts late and hard in on left handed batters.  He also incorporates a change-up at times that has been described as an above average offering.  

Control – B.  In his first stint in professional baseball Alvarez walked 3.6 batters per nine innings.  Not terrible for a reliever, but there is room for improvement.  Undoubtedly, this mark will prove as Alvarez receives top of the line coaching that the Angels can offer.

Command – C.  This is where Alvarez struggled, and when I say struggled, I mean he was merely average.  He’ll get better at spotting his pitches with time.   

Mechanics –  C.  Alvarez has the quality pitches to be a great starter, but the mechanics of a reliever.  His delivery requires a great deal of effort and the way he approaches and attacks each batter, he’s definitely a reliever, in every sense of the term.  His movements are deliberate and fast, his arm angle is short and he falls off the side of the mound at the conclusion of each pitch.   

Performance – B +. Getting drafted and skipping Rookie Ball altogether definitely helps in this category.  Alvarez, with the exception of three bad outings, was completely and utterly dominant in his professional debut.  He limited the walks to a respectable number, logged a lot more strikeouts than innings pitched and sported a solid ERA.  In fact, given this performance, I wouldn’t expect to see him in the Cal League for too long next season, they may try to challenge him in the high minors immediately.

Projection – A.  How do you grade a closer?  Alvarez is a closer in the minors and will be a closer in the majors.  He has the ball movement, fastball, slider and mentality of a closer.  I don’t expect he’ll spend a ton of time in the minors either. 

(*As always, the above scouting report is provided by Scotty Allen of LA Angels Insider)

Season Summary: Alvarez had the honor of being the first selection by the Angels in the 2012 Amateur Draft. Of course, the Angels' first pick didn't come until the third round, so that distinction isn't quite as great as it sounds, but it remains an honor nonetheless. Alvarez, like pretty much every other Halo draft pick, was straight out of college where he was a prolific closer at Florida Atlantic. He had worked as a starter in previous seasons, but was converted into relief in 2011 and really took off from there, which is no surprise given his big, nasty fastball. His selection was every bit the kind of selection the Angels needed, in that Alvarez is a prospect who should be ready for the majors in a hurry. His fastball is already there and his slider and command are on their way. He did everything expected of him in his first season in the minors in that he racked up big strikeout numbers while showing flashes of dominance. He was probably a little more hittable than one would like to have seen, but given the level of play, it is possible that some of that was more a product of shoddy defense behind him.

What to Expect in 2013: Like I said above, Alvarez is a fast track prospect. They could have him make a stop at High-A Inland Empire, but it seems more likely that he'll jump straight to Double-A Arkansas. To be honest, he doesn't have a lot to gain by blowing away inferior A-ball hitters with his big fastball. But in Double-A, there will be a lot more guys who can handle his kind of heat. Put him in a situation where he can't just throw the ball passed guys and it will force him to work on spotting his fastball better and tightening up his slider.

One trend the Angels have employed, with mixed results, is converting college relievers to starters. That doesn't look like it will be the case for Alvarez, even though he has starting experience. His fastball just plays so much better in relief, but really the larger issue is that his secondary stuff isn't close to being rotation ready, especially his change-up, which may never even be game ready. Frankly, it would be a waste of resources too. The Halos' system is shockingly short on relievers that can make a big impact in the next year or two. If they just leave Alvarez alone, he could very well make an appearance in the majors late in 2013 or, more likely, early in 2014. That's what they need and that's what they drafted him to do.

Garrett Wilson

About Garrett Wilson

Garrett Wilson is the founder and Supreme Overlord of Monkeywithahalo.com and editor at The Outside Corner. He's an Ivy League graduate, but not from one of the impressive ones. You shouldn't make him angry. You wouldn't like him when he is angry.