Yordan Alvarez is INSANE

INSANE…ly good, that is. That’s the only way you can describe the performance of baseball’s newest offensive sensation, Yordan Alvarez. You might not realize how good he actually has been. If I filter our leaderboard for all rookie seasons since 2000 with at least 220 plate appearances, Alvarez sits atop the list after sorting by wOBA. Of course, it’s easier to do that over 228 plate appearances than the 678 that Aaron Judge did it over two seasons ago when he posted a .430 wOBA. But still, while you can kinda fake an inflated BABIP (Alvarez has a .376 mark), it’s far more difficult to fake a .365 ISO. But how real has his performance been so far?

I don’t know if it was due to a stacked system, he was underrated, or he took such an enormous and unexpected step forward this year, but he was ranked as just the seventh best Astros prospect heading into the season. That ain’t bad, but it’s certainly not the elite ranking you might expect from a guy obliterating the baseball.

While he enjoyed awesome performances at Single-A in 2017 and Double-A in 2018, he suffered some regression during his first taste of Triple-A action last year. It’s probably why he wasn’t ranked higher as a prospect. Rather than continue at that lower, albeit respectable, level, he raised his game back up during his time there this year. He posted an even more absurd .461 wOBA, driven by a not-a-typo .399 ISO and 44.2% HR/FB rate, including 23 dingers in just 213 at-bats. It was out of nowhere given his more pedestrian results at the level last year, but not so compared to what he had done at lower levels.

Obviously, we all know that the outstanding Triple-A performance has carried over to the Majors. Among those with at least 220 plate appearances, his .365 ISO trails just Mike Trout, but his mark leads all actual humans (Trout is not from this world). His HR/FB rate ranks fourth. That’s quite amazing for a rookie, but does my xHR/FB rate equation suggest any sort of good fortune is involved? Let’s find out:

Brls/True FB FB Pull% FB Oppo% Avg FB Distance HR/FB xHR/FB
47.3% 28.6% 32.1% 343 33.9% 29.6%

To begin, that’s a mammoth barrels per true fly ball rate. That pairs well with a strong average fly ball distance mark. Lastly, his fly ball pull percentage is above the league average, though not significantly so. We can clearly say that his 29.6% xHR/FB rate is driven more by his ability to barrel his flies and hit them far than any dramatic pull tendency. Overall, you see his expected mark marginally below his actual HR/FB rate. You have to realize that it’s really, really hard to demonstrate a true talent 33.9% HR/FB rate, or even anything above 30%. The fact that his xHR/FB rate is knocking on 30%’s door fully validates that he has been a true powerhouse.

Of course, you have to remember that just because these metrics support his current performance doesn’t automatically mean he could sustain those underlying metrics. So for now, we could only say that his home run performance has been real, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will continue. He’ll still need to adjust to pitchers’ adjustments and barrel up those flies and whack them far.

Moving on from his power, we also find that his performance has been propped up by a .376 BABIP. The knee-jerk reaction is that this has to be a fluke and he’ll be due for some drastic regression sooner or later. But before running my xBABIP equation to determine if that might indeed be the case, please take a moment to marvel at his batted ball distribution:

Yordan Alvarez Balled Ball Profile
LD% GB% FB% IFFB%
25.0% 36.1% 38.9% 1.8%

That’s just dreamy. Not only is he scorching liners at a strong clip, his pop-up rate is a minuscule 1.8%! That’s one pop-up all season. This is a mini Joey Votto or Freddie Freeman profile.

LD% True FB% True IFFB% Hard% Spd Pull GB While Shifted% % BIP Shifted BABIP xBABIP
25.0% 38.2% 0.7% 49.3% 0.8 13.4% 62.3% 0.376 0.336

So we mix in that high line drive rate, the slightly high fly ball rate, the microscopic pop-up rate, the elite Hard%, the utter lack of speed, and a penchant for grounding into the shift, and out pops our xBABIP of .336. Even though he’s been a fly ball hitter, plus a guy with no speed who grounds into the shift more often than the average bear, his xBABIP still sits well above the current league average BABIP of .299. You will note, however, that .336 is not .376. Just like I said during the xHR/FB rate discussion, it’s really hard to possess a true talent level BABIP of above .350. A .336 mark is quite impressive, especially for a left-hander who does ground into the shift and also has absolutely no speed. Unfortunately, he probably won’t ever change those two factors, so this is the best BABIP skills we’re ever likely to see from Alvarez.

While he has shown the skills to hit lots of line drives and few pop-ups while in the minors, those are still difficult to maintain each season and only the best of the best do so. In other words, we have to figure regression in both metrics until he proves his ability over several seasons. That means his true talent BABIP will likely settle into the .300-.320 range, perhaps with peaks a little higher than that (excluding what we have seen so far).

If you’re an Alvarez owner, keep smiling. There’s nothing here to suggest any major regression or slump is imminent. While it’s prudent to project some regression moving forward, this is still a monster at the plate.





Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Tommy
Member

Looks like he is poised to hit his largest number of AB and PA in his pro career. You’re right that there’s nothing else in his profile, but is the “rookie wall” nothing to worry about for hitters or only pitchers?

nb
Member
nb

I think that’s more for pitchers. Position players, not so much, especially guys who are mostly DHs like Alvarez.