Before you jump to conclusions just by reading the title, actually take a few minutes to read what the blog consists of.
As each day passes, Orioles fans are wondering who they are going to see in right field in 2017. Is it going to be Mark Trumbo, brought back on a multi-year deal worth over $80MM? Is it going to be Michael Bourn, who Dan Duquette is a big fan of? Will it be someone like free agent Matt Joyce, or a promotion (and transition to RF) for Christian Walker?
How about we analyze the real possibility of Cuban born outfielder, Dariel Álvarez.
Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware of this idea not receiving many popular votes on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, etc., however, given the Orioles won’t be looking too far outside of the organization for improvements this winter, Álvarez should have a real good chance to break camp with the Orioles this spring.
Born in Camaguey, Cuba, Álvarez has been in the Orioles organization since 2013, when he was signed as an undrafted free agent. Going undrafted through college doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t play in the majors, just take a look at a pitcher that wasn’t drafted in 2006, after closing for the 2005 Florida Gators College World Series team. You may recognize him as number 56, Darren O’Day.
Álvarez has a career slash line of .293/.324/.434 through four seasons in the minors, which spans 422 games. He has 140 extra base hits, with 39 of them being home runs. Last season in 107 starts in RF with Norfolk, Álvarez had an RF/9 (Range Factor per 9 innings) of 1.98, and committed just one error in 209 opportunities. He has a career 2.13 RF/9 in 163 starts in RF.
I’ve heard it said that Álvarez’ fielding is not what is hindering him from maintaining a major league job; instead, it’s his offensive, more specifically, his power production. Last season with the Tides, Álvarez had a .324 OBP, but with just four home runs. He did, however, hit 38 doubles through 130 games.
The right field position has plagued the Orioles for back-to-back years now, as the team finished with a -8 DRS in 2015, and a -19 in 2016, but the power numbers the offense as a whole puts up, is far from mediocre.
Unfortunately for the O’s, they keep smacking home runs, but they also keep failing to win a pennant. I’ve been quoted before as saying home runs are great, and they’re fun to watch, but if your team can’t win when it matters (in the postseason) the home runs won’t matter one bit.
In 2012, when they were defeated in the ALDS by the Yankees, the team finished the regular season with 214 HR’s, good for second in the AL. Two years later, they were sent home in the ALCS by the Kansas City Royals. They finished that season with 211 HR’s, best in the American League. This past season, they were defeated in the Wild Card game, ironically enough, on a 3-run home run. They finished 2016 with 253 HR’s, again, the best in the AL.
The Orioles need to focus less on power hitters, and more on defense. With the power this team already has going into 2017 (Davis, Machado, Jones, Schoop), it may make sense to add more in the way of defense, and bring security to one of the two corner outfield positions.
According to FanGraphs, and Steamer Projections, Álvarez is projected to play in 81 games this season for the Orioles, and he is projected to slash .271/.304/.396 with seven home runs, and 25 total extra base hits. If this projection holds true, I couldn’t possibly see how it would be hurtful for an Orioles team that is always looking for guys that can get on base.
Currently, Álvarez is playing in the Venezuelan Baseball League, for the Tigres de Aragua. Through 37 games Dariel has slashed .331/.338/.473, while hitting three home runs, and driving in 26 runs. Over his last ten games, he is 14-41 (.341) with three doubles, and a .349 OBP.
Álvarez may not be a player that leads the league in HR’s, slugging, or stolen bases, but he is a guy that you could feel comfortable with in right field.
Given the Orioles have started 16 different guys in right field since the departure of Nick Markakis, what would they have to lose by giving the 28-year-old extensive looks in Spring Training, and allowing Álvarez to make a name for himself at the big league level?
Now you’re free to commence with your “absolutely not” type comments if you wish.